For years, Tony Kanaan has walked into the interview room at Texas Motor Speedway without stopping at the Wall of Fame.
It’s got his name on it, thanks to his 2004 victory in an IndyCar Series race.
But he’d never stopped.
Until Tuesday, when he was in Fort Worth to help the speedway recognize the winners of a student reading program. After handing out trophies to the students, Kanaan stopped to snap a photo of his name.
It’s about time. The 1.5-mile oval is one of his favorite tracks.
“How many times have I been here?” he said. “I’ve been here since 2003, and I know my name is there — I know I won the race. I never had a picture of that. I said, you know what, let me take a picture of my name.”
Maybe in a few weeks, the veteran Brazilian driver will need to take two photos. He’ll have a chance to add his name a second time to the wall when he competes in the Rainguard Water Sealers 600 on June 10.
It’ll be his first chance to run on the new track configuration at TMS, which has a reputation for producing speedy, competitive IndyCar Series races. Last season, Graham Rahal edged James Hinchcliffe by .0008 of a second, the fifth-closest finish at TMS.
Kanaan described that race, in which the winner made up a 10-second deficit, “by far the most exciting” of the series in 2016.
“New configuration, I think it’s even faster than last year,” Kanaan said. “I think there’s every possibility for this race to be as good or better. We went four-wide, five-wide last year. I think we can go six-wide in Turn 1. Let’s see if we can break the record this year.”
By the time Kanaan gets to Texas, he’ll have run his 16th Indianapolis 500. He’ll start seventh in the field on Sunday, looking to add a second Borg-Warner trophy to his 20-year open-wheel career.
“When I won the 500, I started 12th,” he said. “I think it’s just a spot to start if you have a good car. I’m confident we have a very good car to fight for the win.”
Kanaan, 42, said he sees no slowing down in his future. He doesn’t mind being seen as an ambassador of the sport, although others have been racing as long or longer, he said.
“I don’t mind if I can help the series,” he said. “I became who I am because of them. So yeah, if that’s a title, I’m kind of an ambassador. I will really embrace it to make sure that people know how great of a product we have.”
In the meantime, Kanaan is starting to make sure he collects memories.
And trophies. He wants more trophies, no matter what form they come in. He’s had his eye on a prize that TMS president Eddie Gossage promised him.
“When you win the race here, the winner gets to go to the Speedway Club,” Kanaan said. “I walked in there and saw this huge chocolate fountain, pouring chocolate, and a bunch of strawberries. That’s my favorite. I got to eat a bunch before I made a speech. Eddie promised me if I won another race here, he was going to give me that fountain. So I’m after the fountain this year.”
Rainguard Water Sealers 600
7:30 p.m. June 10