This time a year ago, it looked like Tony Kanaan's racing career in IndyCars was finally over.

He'd been dropped by his long-time race team Andretti Autosports the previous autumn, and a deal to race for De Ferran Dragon Racing fell apart over a lack of financing. It was only five days before the 2011 season opener at St Petersburg that Kanaan finally landed a one-year berth at KV Racing Technology thanks to one of his oldest friends in the sport, Jimmy Vasser, who co-owns the team along with Kevin Kalkhoven.

"I think we had an eventful year last year!" recalled Kanaan. "I can't thank those guys enough for rescuing me five days before the first race. If it wasn't for Kevin and Jimmy and Mark [Johnson, team manager] and everybody's effort on their part [to pull the deal off] before the first race last year, this would never have happened."

Kanaan repaid Vasser's faith in him with an impressive season, even if it didn't always show in the team's overall race results. "We had a great year," he insisted. "I understand that it's probably not the year that we wanted to have, but it was a lot better than the way we started it."

Kanaan ended up in fifth place in the 2011 championship. So successful had the partnership been, that no one even noticed that there had been no confirmation about Kanaan re-signing with KV Racing - and it was by no means a slam dunk. The end of 2011 had finished under a terrible cloud, with Kanaan's close friend Dan Wheldon killed in a horrible accident in the season finale at Las Vegas; many wondered whether Kanaan could possibly bounce back from this and even want to carry on racing at all.

Then the buzz about Rubens Barrichello possibly coming to the team started up. The prospect rejuvenated Kanaan, and it rapidly became unthinkable that Tony wouldn't be right there alongside Rubens if the deal came off. Kanaan himself admitted that despite the lack of a public announcement about contracts, he never had any intention of going anywhere except right back into the cockpit of his KV Racing Dallara-Chevrolet - if he could ever prise Barrichello out of the seat, that is.

"I feel bad it looks like I left, but I would not let Kevin and Jimmy let me leave anyway," he said. "I was living in the shop for the past month to make sure that they wouldn't let me go!"

Whatever KV Racing are paying to re-sign him on the two-year deal announced on Thursday has been more than made up by Kanaan's pivotal role in bringing Barrichello to IndyCar. Quite simply, it was all down to him: without Kanaan it would never have happened.

"My part on Rubens's deal: I think Kevin was talking to me, and Rubens, but I think I set them up pretty bad," he grinned. "I was with Rubens when [Williams] kind of gave him the phone call that his deal was not going to happen at F1, and I said, 'Hey, why don't you test my car to help me out. It's a new car. With your experience, I think it's going to be great to have your feedback.'"

"I go to Kevin and Jimmy, and I said: 'Hey, he wants to race. He has a full sponsorship. He's ready to go. He just wants to give a couple laps in the car, and he'll make his decision,'" he continued.

"So obviously we didn't have any cars, so we had my car, and I said, 'I'll step out of my car, no problem' - which I regretted until today because it was supposed to be one day and it became four and a half!" he laughed. "And then after the test, obviously Jimmy - with what I told him [about sponsorship] - and Kevin as well, they go talk to Rubens. They said, 'Did you like it?', Rubens says, 'Yeah, I enjoyed it a lot.'

"So now they're expecting Rubens to make his decision," continued Kanaan. "Rubens asked, 'Do you guys have a sponsorship?' I said, 'No, I thought you had it.' Then Jimmy kind of gave me a dirty look, and they realised it was a setup. But I think it was a good one! At the end of the day, we're all happy now."

Now Kanaan has his dream team mate, his 'brother' - the one driver in all the world that he's always wanted alongside him. "We have always dreamed about racing together but never imagined it would actually happen and certainly not in the near future or in IndyCars," he said.

Brothers or not, Kanaan isn't cutting Barrichello any slack going in and fully expects the new arrival to make an immediate big splash in IndyCar this year. "I have to say, I don't expect any less than for Rubens to be right on top of the game right away," he said. "If Rubens didn't believe that he could win, he wouldn't have come to the team.

"With his experience and his talent and the way that IndyCar Series is competitive, giving equal equipment as far as chassis, and now this year we have different engines, but I believe that he has very good chances to be fighting for race wins and championships this year," said Kanaan.

However, he admitted that it might be a bit much to expect Rubens to be an immediate success on ovals: "We've got to be realistic about the experience that he's going to have on the ovals," he conceded.

It's not just Barrichello in the spotlight and under pressure going into the 2012 season opener at St Petersburg on March 25. The whole team has to raise its game to deliver, as does Kanaan himself. And he only has himself to blame, after all.

"We got a huge responsibility on our plate now, not just with me and with the results that we had last year ... We definitely got great results last year," he said. "Now Rubens has joined it, and EJ just renewed. EJ has been quite fast in testing. So I would say nowadays it's a big responsibility."

Happily, brothers-in-racing Kanaan and Barrichello - the boys from Brazil - wouldn't have it any other way.


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