Tony Kanaan

INDYCAR continues our celebration of the 12 days of Christmas with 12 of the most memorable storylines from the 2014 Verizon IndyCar Series season.

Tony Kanaan was growing tired of standing on left or right of the podium. In his first season driving the No. 10 Target Chevy for Chip Ganassi Racing, the Indy car veteran wore out the step for third place, had his fill of second place, and had one race left on the schedule to make his way to the top.

Like clockwork, the 2004 IndyCar Series champion rose to the occasion at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, Ca., and closed the season on a high note as he led home Target teammate Scott Dixon and Ed Carpenter after 500 miles of torrid action. He’d been close to earning a breakthrough win for Ganassi at other rounds, and says going into the offseason without a victory would have been hard to accept.

“I was, for sure, going to be angry if I didn’t win at least once, but it isn’t always up to you—otherwise, I’d win every race!” said the 39-year-old.  “We were in contention to win at least two races apart from Fontana.  It was a real shootout with five laps to go, and for sure, I was going to be less than happy, let me put it this way, if I wasn’t the guy up there on the highest step of the podium.”

Winning at ACS was a relief for Kanaan, who took over the No. 10 entry for his close friend Dario Franchitti when the Scot retired prior to the 2014 season. As a whole, the Ganassi team got off on a slow start, and with a new program to learn, it took the Brazilian a little while to master his surroundings. By the end of the championship, Kanaan was on a hot streak as he rallied to finish seventh in the standings.

From the outside, seventh might not sound like much of an achievement for a former series champion and Indy 500 winner, but Kanaan disagrees.

“If you think about it, it’s been a while that I haven’t had such a good season,” Kanaan noted. “Although, if you look at the standings, you might say what do you mean, you were seventh?  But you have to take into consideration the racing, the stuff that happened to us.  But to me it was a very positive year and it took me a little bit to adjust on a big team. 

“Especially, we came in with such great expectations and we had a slow start as a team.  To me I think when I, when we, turned the situation around it proved to some people – not to everybody – that I’m still who I am.”