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IndyCar legend still going strong as careers decline


Indianapolis – Tony Kanan sat in the suite of Chip Ganassi Racing one day this May, and was enjoying a rare second IndyCar farewell trip.

At the age of 46, a talented crop of young drivers running and chasing part-time programs with no future guarantee, Kanan and his fellow giants can watch the sunset for one of the biggest generations of IndyCars.

Four of the 33 on Sunday’s Indianapolis 500 are listed in the top 12 in career wins. Ryan Hunter-Ray is ranked 24th. Canaan needs one win to tie Hunter-Ray with 18 and Juan Pablo Montoya is just two behind Canaan despite spending 13 seasons in Formula One and NASCAR.

Since emerging as the series’ most iconic stars in the last two decades, these illustrious sevens have combined for 207 wins, 14 series championships, and nine Indianapolis 500s in their 40s. And his passion and personality from around the world have changed the game.

“Every year, I realize how special those years were,” Kanan said on Thursday, referring to four drivers favored in Michael Andretti’s garage in the 2000s. “What we had, what we did. We showed that you could run against each other and still have a lot of fun with your teammates.”

It became a blueprint for repairing the damage caused by the years-long split of the American open-wheel racing series.

Canan, the bubbly Brazilian in Andretti’s team; Dario Franchity, tenacious Scotsman; Brian Herta, laid-back American; And dear British driver Dan Wheeldon.

On the track, they were a powerhouse.

Franchity won 31 races and three 500s, before a terrible accident forced him to retire in November 2014. Dear Wheeldon won twice in Indy 16 times, but died at the age of 33 from being injured in a 2011 crash in Las Vegas. Herta, whose son Colton qualified second for Sunday’s race, won four series. And Kanan won the 2004 series and the 500 title in 2013.

Off the track, they turned around, became close friends and made jokes like hiding all of Weldon’s drivers’ shoes or watching Kanan’s mountain bike in half when he was doing a television interview, always down Gasoline Alley. Was changing for.

Two-time series champion Joseph Newgarden, when asked about the joke still being pulled today, said, “I think it speaks to the camaraderie in the series. We’re just as competitive as any other sport, but track Out of there is this contingency between us. We all get along. “

It explains why every driver lined up to congratulate Marco Andretti on the pit row when he captured the Indy 500 pole last year and why he raced against Weldon, who had won the Indy of the future before his death. Helped the car to test drive, or could not hide the sadness of their eyes upon hearing the name of the late Justin Wilson.

And all those budding young stars have started catching big politicians of IndyCar, others are overtaking Father Time.

Chip Ganassi Racing’s Scott Dixon is the six-time series winner, points leader and Sunday pole-sitter. Should he win the second 500 this weekend, Dixon would tie Mario Andretti (52) for the second time in the win and remain as the only seven-time IndyCar champion in a position to join AJ Foyt. If he leads 82 laps, Dixon will break Al Unsar’s career mark, with the most 500 laps to lead (644).

There is a reason why 40-year-old New Josender remains on top.

“I love what I do. I think passion is at the fore,” Dixon said. “Chip and Mike Hull are two of the most competitive people I know and this push is definitely at the fore.”

The same is true of other people in this generation who made physical fitness a priority.

Kanan competed in triathlons. Three-time Indy 500 winner Helio Castroneves included weight training, biking, swimming, even dancing in his fitness routine. Hunter-Ray did free diving.

There is no doubt that it helped.

Hunter-Ray, age 40, is expected to claim his second 500 crown after qualifying for the seventh last weekend. He is one place ahead of the prolific 46-year-old Brazilian Castroneves with Michael Shank Racing, who is again chasing a record-fourth race win.

“It’s a great group of people and I’ve learned a lot from them,” Castroneves said. “That’s what makes you better and I probably wouldn’t be as successful without them pushing me.”

They haven’t stopped.

Two-time Indy champ Juan Pablo Montoya, the 45-year-old Colombian, will make his first IndyCar debut in four years from 24th with Arrow McLaren SP.

Four-time series winner and 37-race winner would become the third-oldest first-time 500 winner in 42 years, if Sebastian Bordais of France put Foote back in the winning lane.

Will Powers, along with 40-year-old Australian team Penske, face the toughest job after qualifying 32nd. But a win would take him ahead of Al Unsar (39), who would break the tie at fifth on the list of career wins.

“It’s really great to be a driver in this era because it’s like the first era after partition,” said Power. Due to equality, data, on-board stuff, it is actually the highest quality area in history. You’ve got nine winners in this year’s race and you probably haven’t seen it since the 90s. But now it is more about drivers and engineers and it has to be taken to the simplest, smallest detail. “

And if one thing is clear, it is this: Kanan is not ready to park his car, even though he can see guards changing in their own garages with peers like Marcus Erickson and Alex Palu.

“They remind me a lot of what we had with Andretti,” Kanan said. “You can see it. I think we’ve shown people something special. Now you see the world, and it’s great, it’s great to see people get along.”

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More AP Auto Racing: https://apnews.com/hub/auto-racing and https://twitter.com/AP—Sports

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