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How Kanaan got Rubens - and a 2-year deal

One story slightly lost in the glare of the announcement of Rubens Barrichello's signing for KV Racing was confirmation of Tony Kanaan's own new two-year deal.
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.




Related Pictures

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Rubens Barrichello with Tony Kanaan at the press conference in Sao Paulo announcing his move to IndyCar for 2012. [Pictire Credit: KV Racing Technology]
Tony Kanaan and Takuma Sato joke around signing autographs before practice on the streets of Toronto. July 2011. [Picture credit: Jim Haines for IndyCar Media]
Tony Kanaan rues a difficult and frustrating qualifying session on the streets of Toronto. July 2011. [Picture credit: Chris Jones for IndyCar Media]
Tony Kanaan celebrates pole position at Last Vegas Motor Speedway for the season finale race. [Picture credit: Chris Jones for IndyCar Media]
Jimmy Vasser and Tony Kanaan at Baltimore. [Picture Credit: Chris Jones for IndyCar Media]
Tony Kanaan and Jimmy Vasser on pit road at Indianapolis. [Picture credit: Jim Haines for IndyCar Media]
Juan Pablo Montoya, Will Power and Tony Kanaan on the podium after the ABC Supply Wisconsin 250 at Milwaukee IndyFest on Sunday August 17 2014. (Photo by: Chris Jones for IndyCar Media)
The confetti flies as Will Power, Juan Pablo Montoya, and Tony Kanaan raise their trophies in Victory Lane (Photo by: Chris Owens for IndyCar Media)
Will Power (center), driver of the #12 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet IndyCar V6, celebrates his victory Sunday, August 17, 2014 with second-place finisher Juan Pablo Montoya (left), driver of the #2 PPG Team Penske Chevrolet, and Tony Kanaan, driver of the #10 Huggies Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet at The Milwaukee Mile in West Allis, Wisconsin. (Photo by Phillip Abbott/LAT for Chevy Racing)
Will Power, driver of the #12 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet IndyCar V6, celebrates his victory Sunday, August 17, 2014 at The Milwaukee Mile in West Allis, Wisconsin. Power has the driver championship points lead heading into the final two races of the season.  (Photo by Lesley Ann Miller/LAT for Chevy Racing)
Will Power, driver of the #12 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet IndyCar V6, celebrates his victory Sunday, August 17, 2014 at The Milwaukee Mile in West Allis, Wisconsin. Power has the driver championship points lead heading into the final two races of the season.  (Photo by Lesley Ann Miller/LAT for Chevy Racing)
Will Power, driver of the #12 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet IndyCar V6, races to victory Sunday, August 17, 2014 at The Milwaukee Mile in West Allis, Wisconsin. Power has the driver championship points lead heading into the final two races of the season.  (Photo by Lesley Ann Miller/LAT for Chevy Racing)
Will Power, driver of the #12 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet IndyCar V6, races to a sixth-place finish Sunday, August 3, 2014 during the IndyCar Series race at Mid Ohio Raceway in Lexington, Ohio. The finish was good enough for Power to retake the drivers points championship lead from teammate Helio Castroneves. (Photo by Michael L. Levitt/LAT for Chevy Racing)
Scott Dixon (right), driver of the #9 Target Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet IndyCar V6, celebrates his victory Sunday, August 3, 2014 during the IndyCar Series race at Mid Ohio Raceway in Lexington, Ohio. Sebastien Bourdais (left), driver of the #11 Hydroxycut KVC Racing Technology Chevrolet IndyCar V6, finished second. It`s Dixon`s first victory of the season. (Photo by Phillip Abbott/LAT for Chevy Racing)
Scott Dixon, driver of the #9 Target Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet IndyCar V6 celebrates his victory Sunday, August 3, 2014 during the IndyCar Series race at Mid Ohio Raceway in Lexington, Ohio. It`s Dixon`s first victory of the season. (Photo by Michael L. Levitt/LAT for Chevy Racing)
Scott Dixon, driver of the #9 Target Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet IndyCar V6 celebrates his victory Sunday, August 3, 2014 during the IndyCar Series race at Mid Ohio Raceway in Lexington, Ohio. It`s Dixon`s first victory of the season. (Photo by Michael L. Levitt/LAT for Chevy Racing)
Scott Dixon and the #9 Target Chip Ganassi Racing team celebrate victory in the Honda Indy 200 at Mid-Ohio Sport Car Course on Sunday August 3 2014. (Photo by: Chris Jones for IndyCar Media)
The cars of Tony Kanaan and Marco Andretti sit in the Esses of Turns 4 and 5 after contact during the start of the Honda Indy 200 at Mid-Ohio (Photo by: Joe Skibinski for IndyCar Media)

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