INDIANAPOLIS (AP) – Tony Kanaan wants to stay in IndyCar, but if he doesn’t have a ride, the Indianapolis 500 champion said he’ll look elsewhere for a place to race, even if that means moving to NASCAR.
Kanaan, whose contract with KV Racing ends this year, visited Joe Gibbs Racing last week.
“I can tell you that I’m a free agent so I’m looking everywhere,” he said Tuesday. “The report, some people doubt it, but I’m going to say it’s true.”
Looking into joining a NASCAR team is nothing new, Kanaan said. He’s looked into the possibility since winning IndyCar’s signature race in May. The search doesn’t end with NASCAR, either.
During trips to his native home in Brazil, he’s talked with stock car teams and has looked at racing in the Grand-AM series, which he got a taste of during the Brickyard Grand Prix at Indy in July. He raced for Chip Ganassi Racing and finished ninth with teammate Joey Hand.
Kanaan was one of six IndyCar drivers participating in a Firestone tire test at Indianapolis Motor Speedway on Tuesday. Testing continues Wednesday.
Kanaan, the 2004 IndyCar Champion who won his first Indy 500 in May, has talked with various IndyCar teams about a job in 2014. He’s looking early to avoid a similar situation he faced three years ago when he lost sponsorship in December and had to put together a last-minute deal with KV Racing.
While talking with reporters Tuesday, Kanaan wouldn’t confirm a report by Racer last week that JGR had offered him a contract to run Nationwide next season.
But JGR President J.D. Gibbs denied the report last Saturday at Richmond International Raceway, and said Kanaan had asked for a shop tour and any talks with the Brazilian were informal.
Three-time Indy 500 winner Dario Franchitti said he believes Kanaan will stay in IndyCar.
Franchitti, of all people, could provide some valuable advice. He made the jump to NASCAR in 2008 and didn’t last long, running just half a season because his funding ran out. Franchitti was back in IndyCar in 2009.
“I’ll give my advice to TK if he asks,” Franchitti said. “I hope he stays in IndyCar and I think he will. He loves driving IndyCars and he loves the Indianapolis 500. He loves everything about it and the fans love him.”
Being such a fan favorite would benefit any series. Kanaan took a moment on social media to send out his Indy 500-winning picture hanging at the Speedway. Fan reaction helped Kanaan relive the biggest win of his career.
But he made it clear, his visit to Indy was for tire testing and not making a decision on his future, right now.
And those in NASCAR have other things to worry about.
“I think NASCAR has a lot of problems right now, a lot bigger than Tony Kanaan, I can tell you that,” he said.
Whatever issues there are in NASCAR, there’s plenty in IndyCar, too.
The past two races _ at Sonoma and Baltimore _ has seen friction between race control and drivers and Scott Dixon was fined $30,000 by IndyCar for saying race director Beaux Barfield should be fired.
It’s a pivotal moment for Dixon who sits 49 points behind Helio Castroneves for the series lead.
“It’s not my job to fix the issues, but the issues need to be fixed,” Franchitti said. “It’s been happening all year. It’s something that needs to be addressed. It’s a shame we’re talking about it. We should be talking about the excellent racing.”
Dixon hit one of Will Power’s crew members at Sonoma. At Baltimore, Dixon crashed and called for Barfield’s firing after not getting a requested tow back to the pits.
“And how haven’t they been consistent?” Power asked on Tuesday. “I think they have reviewed all of the decisions they’ve made and there really hasn’t been any inconsistencies, so I think race control is doing the right job.”
But not everyone wants to weigh in on the subject.
“Man, I’m smarter than that,” Marco Andretti said. “I’m not touching that one.”
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