By: Spencer Neff
November 23, 2020
At this time last year, Tony Kanaan was preparing for his “TK’s Last Lap”, where he was expected to compete on the ovals for a final time as an NTT IndyCar Series driver.
Today, those plans have been pushed back. On Monday morning, the 2004 IndyCar Series Champion announced his return to Chip Ganassi Racing. After competing with the team from 2014 to 2017, the 2013 Indianapolis 500 winner will run the four oval races this season.
In September, the team announced seven-time NASCAR Cup Series Champion Jimmie Johnson would run the road and street courses.
“It’s hard to express in words how excited I am about this announcement. When Chip and I first started to talk about the opportunity to drive the ovals and share the No. 48 with Jimmie Johnson I couldn’t imagine that we would reach an agreement this fast,” Kanaan exclaimed in today’s press release.”
“Chip Ganassi Racing is at the pinnacle of motorsports in North America and being able to be part of the program once again with such great drivers in their lineup is a dream come true. I’ve also been very fortunate to enjoy great relationships with my sponsors throughout my career and having companies like Bryant and NTT DATA supporting me once again is a testament to that. Both Bryant and NTT DATA have been with me through different teams, wins and even life events. Being able to continue to represent these companies is truly an honor.”
Since making his debut in 1998 with Tasman Motorsports in the CART FedEx Championship Series, the Salvador, Brazil native has become one of the most popular figures in series history both in the paddock and among the fans.
At Texas in June, he extended his series record to 318 consecutive starts, a streak that had dated back to the Portland event in 2001.
During his 23-year career, Kanaan amassed 383 starts, 17 wins, 15 poles, 78 podiums and over 4,000 laps led. In 2020, Kanaan earned a best finish of ninth at World Wide Technology Raceway (Gateway) Race 1 on August 29.
During his first stint with Chip Ganassi Racing, lasting from 2014 to 2017, Kanaan started 67 races and won the 2014 MAVTV 500 at Auto Club Speedway, his last win to date in the series.
“As the Indy car driver market trends younger and younger, experience is something that cannot be taught – especially at the Indianapolis 500. There is no one more experienced in the paddock than Tony, and when we needed the right fit for rounding out our oval program, it was clear he was the right choice,” Team Owner Chip Ganassi noted.
“We are very familiar with NTT DATA and Bryant over the years and are excited to have both companies back with this program. Tony also knows our team, he knows our system and he knows our drivers. We expect the combination of him and Jimmie to give us the one-two punch we’re looking for in the No. 48.”
NTT Data, who took over entitlement sponsorship of the IndyCar Series in 2019, has been a team sponsor of Chip Ganassi Racing since 2015, when they sponsored Kanaan for 13 races.
“We are thrilled to welcome back Tony to Chip Ganassi Racing and for NTT DATA to have the opportunity to reunite with him,” said David Croxville, Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer, NTT DATA Services.
“Tony has been an outstanding ambassador for NTT DATA over the years and remains an integral part of our company’s legacy in the sport, including driving the NTT DATA car at Ganassi from 2015-17. All NTT DATA Racing fans will look forward to having one of the sport’s most popular drivers represent us again.”
Also joining Kanaan’s effort will be Bryant Heating and Cooling, who have sponsored Kanaan in 14 of the 15 previous seasons.
“We’re excited to extend our relationship with Tony for the 2021 season. Bryant has been a long-time supporter of Tony, the NTT INDYCAR SERIES and the Indianapolis 500 and we’re pleased that it will continue,” Justin Keppy, President, North America Residential & Light Commercial, Bryant relayed.
“Tony embodies all of the qualities that the Bryant brand stands for, including our mantra of always doing Whatever it Takes® in order to get the job done. Our racing sponsorship is something that our distributors and dealers really enjoy and we’re looking forward to sharing it with them next year.”
After bringing back third-year driver Marcus Ericsson and six-time Champion Scott Dixon, Ganassi signed Alex Palou to drive the No.10 entry before completing their lineup with Kanaan’s addition.
Header Image By Richard Dowdy/INDYCAR