Tony Kanaan

Tony Kanaan plans to take his family for a Sunday drive this weekend, something he hasn’t done in quite some time during the Memorial Day holiday. Kanaan, his wife, Lauren, sons Leo, Deco and Max and young daughter, Nina, are going to take a drive past a place Kanaan knows so well.

“As a family, we plan on driving to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway on Sunday,” Kanaan said. “I want to show the kids the track and where we will be racing just to make me feel good, to be honest.”

In any other year, Sunday of Memorial Day weekend at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway would be jam-packed with spectators, watching 33 brave drivers racing around the historic 2.5-mile oval in the world-famous Indianapolis 500 presented by Gainbridge. Every year since 2002, Kanaan has been one of those 33 athletes.

But 2020 is an unusual time.

Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, IMS will be quiet Sunday. This year’s race has been rescheduled to Sunday, Aug. 23.

That is what makes this week so unusual as INDYCAR teams work to get back on track. This is a week that millions of racing fans around the world look forward to the most as they celebrate the iconic race.

Instead, this will be a week to celebrate and honor the history of the Indianapolis 500 while looking forward to better times ahead.

“We need to do things realistically,” Kanaan said. “I’m taking this as a week we need to do things right so we can do things right later. If you had said the Indianapolis 500 would be canceled, it would be a pretty sad week. But my eyes are on August already.

“This August is my May. When August is over, it won’t be 364 days left for the next Indianapolis 500, it will be less than that.

“This week, we need to celebrate. We need to remember. We need to take the time to watch history embrace the race and get ready for August.”

Kanaan, the 2013 Indianapolis 500 winner, will drive the legendary No. 14 for A.J. Foyt Racing in August at IMS as part of his “TK Last Lap” final season in the NTT INDYCAR SERIES. For now, he is using this week to promote the series and the annual speed classic at IMS. He has done lots of interviews and video conference calls talking about his big win in 2013 and the importance of “The Greatest Spectacle in Racing.”

“We’re still doing a bunch of promotions and that is cool, but my eyes are on August when we will get to do it for real,” Kanaan said.

When Kanaan moved to the United States from Brazil, he settled in the Miami area because of its Latin heritage. But he was beloved by the many INDYCAR fans in the capital city of Indiana, so in 2018, Kanaan and his family relocated to Indianapolis.

“You can’t talk about Indianapolis to anybody else in the world who doesn’t know Indy because of race cars, because of the ‘500,’” Kanaan said. “I love this place. My wife is from here. Her entire family is from here. The people are nice. It’s nice for us to raise our kids here and experience the community. To me, you can’t talk about Indianapolis without thinking about the Indy 500.

“The city is on the map in a lot of places because of the race.”

Because of his close connection within the Indianapolis community, Kanaan has been able to gauge the mood in the city this week. Even without the Indy 500 this weekend, the trappings of Race Week are proudly on display throughout Central Indiana.

“You still see the checkered flags and the banners,” Kanaan said. “People are embracing the month any way because summer is coming, and we have a race in three months. The atmosphere is positive, and people are looking forward to going back to their routines. That is part of it.

“That is what we do in this city.”