INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Tony Kanaan celebrated one more Indianapolis 500 start Sunday as the crowd roared.
Another close call left him emotional as he took perhaps his final lap on Indy's historic 2.5-mile oval.
The popular 47-year-old Brazilian isn't sure what comes next — a return in in 2023 or or whether it's time to call it a career. Clearly, Kanaan is torn.
“It’s so lame that people think we’re old at 47, we can’t drive anymore. It’s crap,” he said. “To come back here, especially in the last two years with the team that I’m at, if it’s not there, I’m going to evaluate my chances. I don’t want to just be here to participate. I’ve done that plenty of times.”
Kanaan's future has been debated ever since he announced a farewell tour in January 2020.
But when the COVID-19 pandemic struck, the 500 was moved to August and run in front of empty grandstands, Kanaan decided he owed it to fans to give it one more shot. He returned with Chip Ganassi Racing last year and secured enough funding to run once more this year.
At testing in April, he acknowledged he would not announce any more retirement plans after postponing them twice and while third-place finish Sunday had fans thinking he might go out with a second Indy win it may have been his last best chance.
On Thursday, Kanaan talked about the mentors who helped him become the driver and person he is who helped him learn English and his desire to stay in shape to defy the critics. And he explained why these last few years meant so much to him and his family.
“It inspires me that my kids understand what this place means, to see me winning again,” he said in the lead up to the race. “I think actually what I just said there, I’m probably driving more for them than myself at this point. I’ve done everything I’ve wanted to do, am in a really good place in life."
As Sunday showed, Kanaan hasn't lost his touch.
He qualified sixth, finished third and was in position to win his second 500 when the race restarted with two laps left. He just didn't have enoughttime to pass Marcus Ericsson or Pato O'Ward.
Two other previous champions in their 40s also fared well. Four-time winner and 2021 champ Helio Castroneves started 27th and finished seventh. Two-time winner Juan Pablo Montoya wound up 11th after qualifying 30th. All three could still be competing next May.
Or perhaps, Kanaan was just savoring the crowd's sendoff.
“Of course I told them, ‘Guys, I tried, I’m sorry, I did my best, thank you very much for everything,’" Kanaan said. “It was a little bit of a flashback, thinking maybe that was the last time I turned some laps around this place, as well. It was a mix of everything.”
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