Tony Kanaan calls himself an exercise freak.
He prides himself by staying in top physical shape and has even competed in Ironman events. At 40, Kanaan knows this is the best way to stay competitive in his day job as an IndyCar driver.
“I do all the Ironmans and exercises to keep myself on my ‘A’ game,” said Kanaan, who is among the favorites to win Saturday’s Firestone 600 at Texas Motor Speedway.
“That doesn’t necessarily mean I’m going to win all the races because I’m the most fit. But at my age, it’s buying me more time and gives me an edge against some of the young kids coming up.”
Kanaan, the 2004 series champion, has certainly managed to do that in the later years of his career. Just two years ago he won the prestigious Indianapolis 500 for the first time and averaged a top-10 finish a year ago.
For his IndyCar career, Kanaan has 16 wins and 11 poles. The only other current drivers who have double digits in each are Scott Dixon (35 wins, 24 poles), Will Power (23 wins, 34 poles) and Helio Castroneves (23 wins, 37 poles).
And, of that group, only Kanaan and Dixon have won a series championship and an Indy 500. Power has yet to win an Indy 500, and Castroneves has never won a championship.
“There’s no question Tony Kanaan should be a household name for what he’s accomplished,” TMS president Eddie Gossage said. “He doesn’t get the respect that he deserves from the general fan. Everybody in the sport has a ton of appreciation for him, but not the general fan.
“But I’d also say that I don’t think anybody would want to cross Tony Kanaan. He’s built like a linebacker. He’s a workout fiend and just a competitive animal.”
Kanaan isn’t overly concerned about possibly being underappreciated in the sport, saying he races because he loves it. He’s also accomplished just about everything he dreamed of with a championship and an Indy 500 win.
But don’t expect Kanaan to call it a career anytime soon.
“I want to race as long as I can,” Kanaan said. “I think I have 10-15 years of racing left, but in IndyCar? I don’t know, maybe 3-4 years.
“But I will say this — if I’m not racing, I will always be doing something in racing. I don’t want to sit at home, so I’ll at least stay around racing in some fashion.”
For now, Kanaan is perfectly happy in the driver’s seat. He got off to a promising start this year, finishing 3-6-5 in his first three races before regressing of late.
Kanaan wrecked two weeks ago in the Indy 500, ruining his chances of becoming a multiple winner and finishing 26th. He was again outside the top 10 in the two races last weekend in Detroit.
“This season has had its ups and downs,” Kanaan said. “The best way to change it is to win races. We have it; it’s just a matter of putting all of it together. We just need to get a break and go win one.”
Texas would seem to favor Kanaan and his No. 10 Chevrolet team to get things going in the right direction again. It’s Kanaan’s second-best track, based on average finish.
In 15 career starts at TMS, Kanaan has one victory and an average finish of 5.7. The only track better for him on the current schedule is Fontana, where he has an average finish of 4.8 in six career races.
“It’s always cool to come back to Texas because I love the track,” Kanaan said. “The event is always top-notch and we always seem to run well.”
Drew Davison, 817-390-7760
Tony Kanaan’s top tracks
Fort Worth ranks as Kanaan’s second-best track on the IndyCar schedule.