Tony Kanaan's IndyCar racing career is once again in limbo, after he revealed that the deal putting him in a De Ferran Dragon Racing seat
in 2011 had fallen apart - which means the team itself is unlikely to compete in 2011 and may be shuttered entirely.
"I came up with some money, but not enough for [de Ferran's team]," he said on Tuesday night from Brazil. "It's hard to take, especially a month before the championship starts,” he continued, "but I'm going to keep fighting and go find something to drive.
"The bottom line now is, who will give me a deal and for how many races?"
Kanaan said that he had enough funding to run a limited campaign of "a handful of races". KV Racing Technology, Dreyer & Reinbold Racing, Conquest Racing and Dale Coyne Racing still have race seats unconfirmed, while the FAZZT Race Team has also been hoping to run a second car alongside that of team owner Alex Tagliani.
Kanaan did announce a sponsorship program with Brazilian beer company Itaipava, which also sponsors his compatriot Helio Castroneves, but it was too little, too late as far as the De Ferran Dragon opening went. Tuesday was the second and final deadline for Kanaan to confirm his sponsorship backing to team boss Gil de Ferran, after a first deadline of February 15 was extended by a week to give Kanaan more time to cast around.
The collapse of the deal between Kanaan and De Ferran Dragon racing also has potentially far-reaching consequences for the team itself, which has been struggling to find sponsors with deep enough pockets to fund it. If even a driver of Kanaan's stature and popularity can't put together a big enough seven-figure sponsorship deal, then it's doubtful whether anyone can before the season starts on March 27.
"This is a very difficult announcement for us to make," said team boss Gil de Ferran. "When Tony and I put the deal together we both knew that it had to make financial sense and we set ourselves certain targets. We believed that together we were a strong proposition both on and off the track and really felt we could have become a major force in the championship in 2011 and beyond. Despite our collective best efforts we have not been able to secure the sponsorship funds to go any further.
"Regarding the future of our team, at this point we are unclear of our plans; nevertheless it is unlikely that we will participate in the 2011 IZOD IndyCar Series."
The news of Kanaan and de Ferrran's sponsorship problems ironically came on the same day that Andretti Autosport - the team that let Kanaan go last December while keeping Ryan Hunter-Reay on the books instead - announced that logistics company DHL had signed up as a co-primary sponsor
on Hunter-Reay's car and would also provide additional sponsorship support to his new team mate Mike Conway.
Hunter-Reay was in much the same position this time last year as Kanaan now finds himself, having only had enough funds for a limited number of races from his sponsor IZOD. After taking the funds to Andretti Autosports, he then had a strong start to the season with a win at Long Beach that provided enough leverage to secure the funds for the rest of the year, and which has now resulted in the long-term security of a multi-year deal with DHL.