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Kanaan reaches century at Beach.

IndyCar veteran Tony Kanaan will make his 100th series start this weekend, but his first on the sacred streets of Long Beach since falling onto the IRL side of US open-wheel racing's divisive twelve-year split.

The Brazilian burst onto the IndyCar scene with Andretti Green Racing in 2003, winning the pole for the season-opening race at Homestead-Miami Speedway and then winning from the pole three weeks later at Phoenix International Raceway. The next season, he became the first series driver to complete every lap - all 3305 of them - and set a then-series record with 889 laps led on the way to the championship title.

He's been second or third in the championship standings in three of the following four years - punctuated by a sixth in 2006 - and will be making his 99th consecutive start - the leader among active IndyCar Series drivers - in Long Beach this weekend. Coming off a fifth place at St Petersburg in the 2009 season-opener a fortnight ago, Kanaan knows that a victory on the 1.968-mile Long Beach circuit this weekend – or at any of the remaining 16 events - will give him at least one win in seven consecutive seasons.

“It shows you that I'm getting old,” he joked.

Kanaan is not without success in Long Beach, having recorded his first podium finish there in his second race in Indy Lights in 1996, and won his first IndyCar pole there in 1999.

“I can't forget that one,” he said of the CART pole, “We had a problem with the gearbox on our primary car in the morning, so we switched to the back-up car and we were 0.5secs quicker. So, about ten minutes before qualifying, we decided to withdraw the primary car and take a chance with the back-upr. It was a gamble, but it paid off.

"I bet my engineers and the crew their wristwatches that I could do better than a 62.5 and I did. They all lost their watches.”

Kanaan hasn't grown out of friendly wagers in the intervening years either and has entered into a new bet with former AGR team-mate Dario Franchitti for the remainder of the 2009 season.

Franchitti, who won the IndyCar Series championship in 2007 with close-cropped hair, has agreed to trim his now full head of hair when he wins a race with Target Chip Ganassi Racing. In return, Kanaan, who favors a shaved head, will allow his hair to grow uncut from the time he wins a race until he wins again.

“The thing is, you guys have all seen me with a shaved head but you've never seen Tony with his full afro,” Franchitti wrote on his weekly blog, “When he lets his hair grow he's got the world's biggest 'fro - a giant disco afro at that. It's unreal. Looks like an oversized costume wig. I'm definitely going to go win this one.”


Related Pictures

Click on relevant pic to enlarge
Tony Kanaan - Andretti Green Racing   [pic credit: IRL/Helrigel]
Alexander Rossi - Andretti Autosport   [pic credit: Indycar Media/Joe Skibinski]
Carlos Munoz celebrates his first IndyCar pole at Texas Motor Speedway
Alexander Rossi - Andretti Autosport
Alexander Rossi - Andretti Autosport [credit: Walter Kuhn]
Marco Andretti - Andretti Autosport [credit: Chris Owens]
Ryan Hunter-Reay - Andretti Autosport   [pic credit: IndyCar media/Chris Jones]
Marco Andretti - Andretti Autosport   [pic credit: IndyCar Media/Joe Skibinski]
Alexander Rossi - Andretti Autosport   [pic credit: Tim Holle/IndyCar Media]
Alexander Rossi - Andretti Autosport   [pic credit: Chris Jones/IndyCar Media]
Scott Dixon is congratulated by Dario Franchitti after winning the 2015 Verizon IndyCar Series Championship. (Photo by: Shawn Gritzmacher for IndyCar Media)
Will Power leads the field to the green to start the GoPro Grand Prix of Sonoma at Sonoma Raceway. (Photo by: Chris Jones for IndyCar Media)
Ryan Hunter-Reay sits in his Andretti Autosport Honda on pit lane prior to practice for the GoPro Grand Prix of Sonoma at Sonoma Raceway. (Photo by: Shawn Gritzmacher for IndyCar Media)
Oriol Servia is strapped into his Andretti Autosport Honda prior to practice for the GoPro Grand Prix of Sonoma at Sonoma Raceway. (Photo by: Chris Owens for IndyCar Media)
Oriol Servia is strapped into his Andretti Autosport Honda prior to practice for the GoPro Grand Prix of Sonoma at Sonoma Raceway. (Photo by: Chris Owens for IndyCar Media)
Marco Andretti kicks up some dust in the Turn 9A chicane complex during practice for the GoPro Grand Prix of Sonoma at Sonoma Raceway. (Photo by: Chris Jones for IndyCar Media)
James Hinchcliffe, Will Power, Josef Newgarden, Marco Andretti, and Graham Rahal at the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco, CA (Photo by: Chris Jones for IndyCar Media)
Marco Andretti, Josef Newgarden, Will Power, Graham Rahal, and James Hinchcliffe bring their machines across the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco, CA (Photo by: John Cote for IndyCar Media)

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