Tony Kanaan is hoping to “Be the One” this year at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, but it certainly won’t be the last for one of the most experienced drivers expected to compete in the 106th Running of the Indianapolis 500 presented by Gainbridge.
Kanaan’s effort this May in a fifth Chip Ganassi Racing entry will come in the No. 1 The American Legion Honda. Kanaan had to ask permission to use the number from his 25-year-old teammate Alex Palou, who holds priority on the No. 1 as defending NTT INDYCAR SERIES champion.
Palou blessed his teammate’s request, which coincides with The American Legion’s “Be the One” campaign that strives to end the stigma around veteran suicide, which is preventing military members and veterans from asking for help.
“What an honor to be representing a great cause,” Kanaan said. “I made the pledge to the veterans, and I'll be the first one to advocate to ‘Be the One.’ If you need help, come ask for help. I've learned that 17 veterans take their lives every day due to this illness that we're fighting, so we're here for that. Hopefully, we'll get the word out, and hopefully we'll put this No. 1 car in Victory Lane and we get to kiss the bricks.”
Kanaan announced the sponsorship initiative Wednesday morning at IMS before Day 1 of the two-day Indianapolis 500 Open Test alongside Indiana Governor Eric Holcomb, who is a U.S. Navy veteran.
“There couldn't be a better reason why we started the day together and this cause and at this time on this hallowed ground,” Holcomb said. “You can almost hear the fans roaring, engines roaring and the flyover.
“We’re 39 days away from a pretty special day, Memorial Day, and there happens to be a race here on that day. That's the day where we hopefully, as a nation, stop and pause and pay tribute to those who unfortunately weren't able to make it Back Home Again in Indiana and every other state in our nation.”
At the base of the famed Pagoda, Kanaan unveiled the white-and-blue ride for what will be his 21st start in “The Greatest Spectacle in Racing.” It will also be Kanaan’s only scheduled NTT INDYCAR SERIES race of the season.
Kanaan was eager to get on track after rain delayed the start of the veteran session by about 90 minutes. Once the track was open, Kanaan was the first driver to brave the low 50-degree temps and run laps at speed during the test.
2013 Indy 500 winner Kanaan said Chip Ganassi Racing built him a new car as he looks for his second win in “The Greatest Spectacle in Racing.” Because the car is new, he only completed 14 laps in the opening two-hour session for veterans.
“It’s awesome to be back, obviously in INDYCAR, but especially here,” Kanaan said. “It’s a good day for us. We’re just really taking it easy and easing into it. It’s a brand-new car, so we’re just doing some tests and had to run a few extra laps.”
Kanaan returned to Chip Ganassi Racing last season to compete in the oval races after driving for the organization from 2014-17. His best finish in four races last year was 10th in the Indianapolis 500. And it’s been nearly 10 years since his lone Indy 500 win in 2013. In eight “500s” since, he’s scored four top-10 finishes.
This year, Kanaan’s only race with Ganassi is the Indy 500 as Jimmie Johnson embarks on a full NTT INDYCAR SERIES season in the No. 48 that Kanaan drove in the oval events in 2021. While this is the final year of his two-year deal with Ganassi, Kanaan insists this isn’t his final Indianapolis 500.
Next year will mark Kanaan’s 25th year in INDYCAR SERIES competition, dating back to his CART debut at Homestead-Miami Speedway in 1998. Because of that, 2004 INDYCAR SERIES champion Kanaan said it’s a priority to return to Indy in May 2023, and maybe more.
“There’s no plan, but we’re trying to figure it out,” Kanaan said. “Next year will be my 25th year, so this is definitely not my last one.”