Texas Motor Speedway

Fitness freak, driver Tony Kanaan prefers Victory Lane over Cowboys tryout

Tony Kanaan discusses a testing session at TMS last month.
Tony Kanaan discusses a testing session at TMS last month. pmoseley@star-telegram.com

If the Dallas Cowboys are lacking linebacker depth this season, Texas Motor Speedway president Eddie Gossage has a suggestion.

“They should call Tony Kanaan because he is a physical specimen,” Gossage said. “And he’s unbelievably competitive about everything. I would not want to have a disagreement with Tony Kanaan.”

Tony Kanaan is a physical specimen

TMS president Eddie Gossage

Yes, the veteran IndyCar driver is known for his fitness passion. He’s competed in multiple triathlons and Ironmans, and is known as the open-wheel series’ “Ironman.”

The 41-year-old Kanaan is set to extend his consecutive starts streak to a record 258 races during Saturday’s Firestone 600, and he will be eying his second trip to Victory Lane at Texas.

But will he make time for a tryout with the Cowboys?

“Well, I respect Eddie a lot, but I’ve never played football in my life,” Kanaan said, laughing. “But I’ll try anything. I’d be up for it.”

All jokes aside, Kanaan is focused on continuing his strong string of success at Texas. He’s finished in the top 10 in 13 of his 16 career starts, and his lone win in 2004 clinched his only IndyCar championship.

5.5 Tony Kanaan’s average finish in 16 career races at Texas

Kanaan and his Chip Ganassi Racing teammate Scott Dixon blitzed the field a year ago at Texas, with Dixon taking the checkered flag and Kanaan finishing second in a race that saw only five cars finish on the lead lap.

This year, Kanaan would love to switch places with Dixon and feels he’s running well enough to do it with seven top-10 finishes in the season’s first eight races.

“I love to go to Texas, it’s one of my favorite tracks,” said Kanaan, who has an average finish of 5.5 at TMS.

“It’s just one of those things where you like the track and the track likes you and, all of a sudden, you’re always in contention for a win or the podium. The layout of the track and also the banking just suits my style.”

15 IndyCar Series drivers representing five Verizon IndyCar Series teams participated in one-day test session at Texas Motor Speedway Tuesday.

Another thing that has suited Kanaan’s style of late is how integrated his primary sponsor, Plano-based NTT Data, has become with his racing team. Most sponsors simply want to slap their logo on the cars and hope the drivers are in contention throughout the race.

But NTT Data is taking an extra step with Kanaan. The company has produced a “smart shirt” for Kanaan to wear during races that captures signals from the heart and muscles.

“It’s awesome and it gives me all the data I could possibly want,” Kanaan said. “That’s the future and that’s what we need [from a sponsor]. They help the team and that’s something money can’t really buy.”

Alexander Rossi won the Indy 500 on Sunday, and swung through DFW on Wednesday. Video by Drew Davison.

As a self-described fitness freak, it’s right up Kanaan’s alley, too. As he enters the twilight years of his career, Kanaan knows he has to keep his body in prime condition to extend his career as long as possible.

That’s why he works out twice a day and makes sure he’s in top physical shape whenever he gets behind the wheel. More than that, though, is the mental strength he gets by competing in triathlons and Ironmans.

“During some of those races, I’m nowhere near as good as the professional people, but it does help me mentally, especially when you’re having a bad day at the race track,” Kanaan said. “I did an Ironman for 12 hours, so that helps and the triathlons help me train my mind more than the body to be honest with you.

Age is just a number to me

41-year-old Kanaan

“People like to say that I’m 41, but age is just a number to me. You have to take care of yourself and that’s what I do. To race at the level we are racing, you have to be on top of your game in every sense.”

Drew Davison: 817-390-7760, @drewdavison

Firestone 600

7:45 p.m. Saturday, NBCSN

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