Mario, Michael and Marco — and others in the legendary Andretti racing family — don’t hold exclusive rights to the jinx that follows in their draft at the hallowed Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
Consider the Kanaan Curse. Eight times fan favorite Tony Kanaan has led the Indianapolis 500 only to watch his coveted drink of milk evaporate. One more and he’ll match the record pace set by Rex Mays. He led nine races without a victory in 12 starts from 1934-1949. Sunday is Kanaan’s 12th start.
From Kanaan’s rookie race in 2002 where oil on the track spun him out to 2012 where he lost the lead with seven laps left, Kanaan has seen his winning chances ended by bad weather, broken drive shafts, crashes and woes in the pits.
In 2007, Kanaan led 83 of the 200 laps including lap 113 when rain red flagged the action making it an official race. The race resumed, though, and Kanaan last led on lap 154, just 12 laps from a rain-induced checkered flag. In 2010, crashes in practice resulted in Kanaan starting last in the field of 33. He charged to second — and nearly first — before a pit stop with four laps left derailed his run.
“Every year if I don’t win, I try not to let myself down or get mad or something. I just try to understand why,” said Kanaan, whose 221 career laps led are more than 47 Indianapolis 500 winners including Al Unser Jr. (110), Bobby Rahal (124), Arie Luyendyk (188). “I am totally fine with the position I have at this place. Some people make history because they win a lot and some people make history because they never won this thing.”
Through all the setbacks Kanaan enters the month of May with his sense of humor intact. Just ask teammate Simona de Silvestro. So far she’s had her Chevy Volt door handle greased and lead put in the left front and right rear hubcaps. Kanaan is using Twitter to find de Silvestro a boyfriend to take to Monday’s awards banquet.
“We don’t (have to) but apparently Tony is convinced,” de Silvestro said.
“We might get a new sponsor. Maybe he has a lot of money,” countered Kanaan.
“That won’t be bad,” added de Silvestro.
It’s that upbeat attitude that endears Kanaan to IndyCar fans, especially at the Indianapolis 500. Should he win Sunday — he starts 12th in his sleek black No. 11 Hydroxycut Chevrolet for KV Racing Technology — the vibrations from the roar of the crowd might be felt in the Miami Valley.
“My biggest motivation is the fans. It’s crazy how big I became here without winning,” Kanaan said.
“I don’t feel this place owes me anything. … It will be really unfair for me to say I deserve to win this thing because there’s 33 other people looking for that as well. I am not going to go away years from now if I never win regretting or being a little bit bitter about it. I mean, I had great time. My name in IndyCar, it’s a lot bigger right now because of the fans of Indianapolis and because I have not won it yet than actually if I had won already.”