Archive for January, 2020

INDIANAPOLIS (Jan. 30, 2020) – Tony Kanaan’s most emotional moment in his illustrious INDYCAR career came at Indianapolis Motor Speedway in 2013 when he finally captured the prestigious but elusive Indianapolis 500 crown.

On Thursday at the world-renowned motorsports facility with the Borg-Warner Trophy by his side, yet another emotional scene transpired for the ever-popular 45-year-old Brazilian entering his 23rd season of competition. Kanaan, an Indy 500 winner and 2004 series champion, announced that the upcoming 2020 NTT INDYCAR SERIES season will be his final as a primary driver.

Kanaan is set to compete in the five oval races of the NTT INDYCAR Series season driving the No. 14 Chevrolet for AJ Foyt Racing. He is scheduled to begin his final campaign, which will be called the “TK Last Lap,” with the Indianapolis 500 presented by Gainbridge on Sunday, May 24. Kanaan will then run Saturday night races at Texas Motor Speedway (June 6), Richmond Raceway (June 27), Iowa Speedway (July 18) and World Wide Technology Raceway at Gateway (Aug. 22) to close out his final season.

He did leave open the possibility of returning for a future Indianapolis 500, but not for another partial or full NTT INDYCAR SERIES season.

“I look back at all these years racing in INDYCAR and the first thing that comes to my mind is how fortunate I’ve been to be in the top level of the sport for this long. I walked into this sport as a 23-year-old with lots of hopes and dreams and I can say, without a doubt, that I accomplished everything I wanted,” Kanaan said. “I’m 45 now; I have fans, wins, podiums, records, a championship and an Indy 500. I feel and know I can still do this for a long time, but like everything else in life there is also a cycle in racing. For a long time, I’ve been asked when I would retire, and my answer was always the same: The day I wake up in the morning and feel like I can’t do this anymore, that’s when I’m going to retire.

“Unfortunately, there are other things one should take into consideration when planning the future, and probably the most important one is what are the options that are available. For 2020, my best option was to race the five ovals of the NTT INDYCAR SERIES season, the sport that gave me so much and that I will always love. I’m not done with racing, that’s for sure. I decided that this year I would step back a bit and enjoy these five races, have time for my family (wife Lauren, sons Leonardo, Max and Deco, and daughter Nina) and my fans, and also give back to the sponsors that always stood by me.”

Kanaan has amassed 17 wins, 15 pole positions and 78 podium finishes in his 377 career starts, which rank second all-time only to the 407 starts made by the legendary Mario Andretti. He also is the “Ironman” of the sport, holding the active record for most consecutive starts at 317 that began at Portland International Raceway in 2001.

His INDYCAR career began in 1998 with Tasman Motorsports after capturing the Indy Lights championship for the organization the previous year. He achieved success quickly at the top rung of the sport, winning CART Rookie-of-the-Year honors with Tasman that year. In his second season, he earned his first pole position at Long Beach in April and then his inaugural win at Michigan International Speedway in July.

One of his major career accomplishments came with Andretti Green Racing in 2004 when he captured the IRL IndyCar Series championship. He won three races, recorded top-five finishes in 15 of the 16 races and completed every lap on the season en route to the title.

The most significant moment came in 2013 with KV Racing Technology when he won the Indy 500 in his 12th attempt. The average speed of the race – 187.433 mph – remains the fastest Indianapolis 500 in history, and the 68 lead changes also remains a standing record. Kanaan has made 18 Indy 500 starts, with a win, pole position (2005), eight top-five finishes and having led 361 laps.

Kanaan has driven for seven teams in his career, beginning with Tasman Motorsports his rookie season. He followed with Forsythe Racing (1999 when Tasman was sold to Gerald Forsythe), Mo Nunn Racing (2000-02), Andretti Green Racing (2003-10), KV Racing Technology (2011-13), Chip Ganassi Racing (2014-17) and AJ Foyt Racing (2018-present).

In addition to his INDYCAR accomplishments, he added two prestigious sports car championships to his resume. He won the LMP2 division of the 12 Hours of Sebring in 2007 and then captured the overall race victory of the Rolex 24 At Daytona in 2015.

So, what does the future hold for Kanaan?

“For the future, who knows?” he said. “I’d love to still be involved with INDYCAR to some degree. I’ve also had offers to race in a number of different series, but that’s not my priority at the moment.”

Kanaan will be promoting the hashtag “TKLastLap” during the course of the 2020 NTT INDYCAR SERIES season, which opens Sunday, March 15 with the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg. For announcements and updates on Kanaan’s next steps, be sure to follow his social media channels – @tkanaan on Instagram and @tonykanaan on Twitter and Facebook.

By: Stan Kalwasinski

“Back in the Day” – Just before and right after World War II, Chicagoland’s Raceway Park was a “hotbed” for midget auto racing.

Some photos taken at the speedway by Chicago area lensmen Ed Coffey and Ed Kirchner give a little bit of a feel for the racing there back in the day.

A 1948 program cover with Gus Klingbiel on the front page gives a lot of information about Raceway Park Motordrome, which was known for its smooth dirt/clay and brick dust surface and “Real Racing, No parading here” competition.

Before his stellar Indianapolis 500 career, Texas driver Lloyd Ruby was a front runner at the track, which was located 130th Street and Ashland Ave. and promoted by the Jenin brothers – Pete and Nick Jenin.

Below … Ruby is shown after a 1949 victory with Nick Jenin, Jenin’s wife Anne and Ruby’s winning car owner, Bob Nowicke – far right.

Pete and Nick Jenin award Harry Turner some cash after Turner had a successful run in his Ulmer Offy. Starter Art Kelly is on the far left – look closely and you can see announcer Wayne Adams on the old infield judges stand.

One last photo shows a heat race lineup with a mixture of body-style midgets ready to go in Post World War II competition.

The Bill Vukovich Story …

Posted: January 28, 2020 in Uncategorized

— A 1947 Soldier Field Souvenir Program —

By: Stan Kalwasinski

“Back in the Day”

Long before it became the home of the Chicago Bears, Soldier Field was the scene of weekly midget auto racing from 1946 through 1950 with “spot” dates taking place, seemingly less and less each year, through 1968. For the 1946 racing season, a new flat, quarter-mile, paved track was installed around the football field inside Chicago’s mammoth arena situated just off the shore of Lake Michigan. Midget racing had been held at Soldier Field as early as 1935. New York native Joe Garson won the ’46 season opener in front of some 20,000 fans on Sunday afternoon, June 16, ahead of Chicago favorites Duke Nalon and Ted Duncan in the 30-lap chase. In addition to Garson, Duane Carter, Ray Richards, Tony Bettenhausen, Frank Burany, Bob Muhlke, and Duncan would win feature races at the “Field” during the weekly Chicago Auto Racing Association/Art Folz-promoted Sunday action.

— A commemorative decal for 1946 Soldier Field champion of Ted Duncan and his Johnny Pawl-owned No. 17 midget. —

One of Duncan’s wins was the Chicago Park District Police Benevolent race on Sunday afternoon, October 20. Before 30,000, Duncan drove Johnny Pawl’s Offy-powered midget to the win in the 50 lapper ahead of fastest qualifier Ralph Pratt, Garson, Henry Banks, Mike O’Halloran and Sam Hanks. 65 cars were on hand with 31 Offy-powered cars in the pits. Seven cars were flown in from California via a C46 cargo plane, arriving at Chicago Municipal (Midway) Airport. Duncan, who split his time between the Chicago area and Florida, was named the season champion at Soldier Field for the 1946 season.

It was more weekly midget racing at Soldier Field in 1947, 1948 and 1949. Champions for the seasons were Duncan again in 1947 as hot rod racing was also held; California’s Johnny McDowell (1948) and another West Coast speedster, Eddie Haddad (1949). Indiana’s Paul “Potsy” Goacher was the champion in 1950 with the midgets now sharing the Soldier Field racing with hot rods and the growing-in-popularity stock cars. By 1951, midget racing at Soldier Field consisted only of a handful of AAA-sanctioned 100-lap main events.

Illustrated Speedway News correspondent Wayne Adams (on the far right) welcoming West Coast competitors at Chicago Municipal Airport for the Chicago Park District Police Benevolent Race in 1946. Through the years, the police benevolent race was usually the best-attended racing event at Soldier Field.

INDIANAPOLIS (January 22, 2020) — NTT INDYCAR SERIES drivers are set to compete in yet another prestigious offseason motorsports event with this week’s Rolex 24 at Daytona, the top U.S. sports car road race at Daytona International Speedway.

Just days after three NTT INDYCAR SERIES drivers competed in the Lucas Oil Chili Bowl Nationals in Tulsa, Oklahoma, the series will be represented by six former series champions and five Indianapolis 500 winners in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship’s season-opening race.

Scott Dixon, a five-time NTT INDYCAR SERIES champion and 2008 Indianapolis 500 winner, headlines the Indy car contingent at the Rolex 24, and he appreciates drivers trying different disciplines, as Conor Daly, Santino Ferrucci and James Davison did in last week’s Chili Bowl, a midget race on dirt.

“It shows their versatility and it shows some drivers have opened the eyes of others to switch across categories,” Dixon said. “But it’s tough because the level of competition these days is through the roof no matter what category you are going to.”

Dixon will drive for Wayne Taylor Racing, the Rolex 24’s reigning overall champion. Dixon and Ryan Briscoe are part of the No. 10 Konica Minolta Cadillac DPi-V.R. in the event’s top class (DPi). Dixon is a two-time event champion, but he is driving the faster prototypes for the first time in four years.

“It’s nice to look forward and not look in the mirrors the whole time like I did with the GT cars,” said Dixon, who competes for Chip Ganassi Racing in the NTT INDYCAR SERIES.

Among the other series regulars competing in Daytona Beach are Ryan Hunter-Reay and Alexander Rossi of Andretti Autosport, Simon Pagenaud of Team Penske and Colton Herta with Andretti Harding Steinbrenner Autosport, plus Team Penske, Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing, Meyer Shank Racing with Curb-Agajanian, Vasser Sullivan and DragonSpeed.

Full television coverage of the 58th annual event begins Saturday at 1:30 p.m. ET on NBC. The NBC Sports Network will air the race from 2:30-6 p.m. and from 11 p.m.-3 a.m., returning at 6 a.m. Sunday. The final 90 minutes of the race airs on NBC on Sunday beginning at noon.

Hunter-Reay, who won an NTT INDYCAR SERIES championship in 2012 and an Indianapolis 500 in 2014, has joined the No. 55 Mazda Team Joest entry that won last year’s pole. This team, along with Acura Team Penske, are among the top candidates to be the overall champion.

The top two finishers in last year’s Indianapolis 500 – Pagenaud and Rossi – are part of the Acura Team Penske’s entries. Rossi, who won the 500 in 2016, will drive with three-time Indianapolis 500 winner Helio Castroneves and sports car veteran Ricky Taylor in the No. 7 Acura DPi. Pagenaud, the 500 winner and 2016 series champion, will team with two-time 500 winner Juan Pablo Montoya and Dane Cameron, a three-time IMSA champion, in the team’s No. 6.

“All the drivers in the world want to be here,” Pagenaud said. “We have a fantastic team here at Team Penske, and I certainly want to add this to the trophy list. That would be fantastic.”

Team Penske last was the overall champion of Daytona’s 24-hour race in 1969.

Said Rossi: “Obviously, for Simon and I this isn’t our full-time job but at the same time there’s a lot of preparation and commitment that goes into these (endurance) rounds and we have an obligation to the team and the manufacturer to represent them and get results. We have a big target this year to go out and finally get a Rolex 24 win.”

Four-time Indy car champion Sebastien Bourdais has joined Mustang Sampling Racing/JDC-Miller MotorSports and will co-drive the No. 5 Cadillac DPi. Matheus Leist, who drove for AJ Foyt Racing last season, will be in the team’s other Cadillac, No. 85 which includes former NTT INDYCAR SERIES driver Tristan Vautier.

The Rolex 24 has 38 entries among four classes. Ben Hanley, who is confirmed to drive for DragonSpeed in the NTT INDYCAR SERIES season-opening Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg on Sunday, March 15, will co-drive the team’s LMP2 No. 81 Oreca 07.

Herta, a two-race NTT INDYCAR SERIES winner as a rookie and a Rolex 24 class champion last year, is a co-driver of the BMW Team RLL No. 25 entry, a BMW M8 GTE co-owned by Bobby Rahal, in the GT Le Mans class (GTLM).

The GT Daytona class (GTD) has the largest field with 18 cars. Townsend Bell, a broadcaster of NTT INDYCAR SERIES races on NBC, will co-drive the No. 12 Lexus RC-F GT3 entered by AIM Vasser Sullivan, which is owned by 1996 Indy car champion Jimmy Vasser and James “Sulli” Sullivan. Reigning NASCAR Cup champion Kyle Busch will make his Rolex 24 debut driving the team’s No. 14 car.

Meyer Shank Racing with Curb-Agajanian is competing in the Rolex 24 for the 17th year. The event’s overall winner in 2012 with AJ Allmendinger and Justin Wilson driving has won three poles and scored four podiums over the years. This year, MSR is fielding the Nos. 57 and 86 Acura NSX GT3s in the GTD class.

The race can be heard on Sirius 138 and XM 202.