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IndyCar Season Preview: Tony Kanaan

Photo credit: Ned Leone

#11 GEICO/Itaipava/Mouser Dallara-Chevrolet, KV Racing Technology

Born: December 31, 1974

Home: Salvador, Brazil

2011 HIGHLIGHTS: Kanaan finished fifth in the championship, remarkable given the fact that he signed with KVRT in March, just before the start of the season. He scored three podiums, with a best finish of second at Iowa, and by finishing fourth at Indianapolis, secured his best finish there since 2006.

2011 LOWLIGHTS: Besides the stress of his tumultuous offseason, Kanaan had four DNFs in 2011, and took his share of hard hits. At Loudon, his car landed upside down after a backstretch crash; during a practice session at Baltimore, he lost his brakes heading into a sharp corner and flew over Helio Castroneves. Kanaan was also leading at Las Vegas when the worst wreck in recent IndyCar memory took the life of his former teammate and close friend Dan Wheldon.

SEASON OUTLOOK: After leaving what had been a sinking ship at Andretti Autosport, the 2004 IndyCar champion latched onto KVRT as a mentor to the wild Takuma Sato and E.J. Viso and helped the entire organization take a step forward in 2011. He’ll return to the team in 2012, once again as its undisputed lead driver, and this time will (hopefully) have the same engineer all season; last year, Michael Cannon left Kanaan’s timing stand mid-season.

Kanaan still has one race to conquer, though: the Indianapolis 500. His misfortunes at the track have been well chronicled, and as the top Andretti driver for years he seemed to have inherited the “Andretti Curse” from owner Michael Andretti. Last year’s fourth place finish may signal the start of a turnaround, though, and while another top five points finish may be out of reach, Kanaan won’t care if he finally gets the Indy monkey off his back.

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