Indy 500: Kanaan buoyed by KV form
22 May 2012
Tony Kanaan was feeling pretty good with the performance of the KV Racing Technology cars after Pole Day qualifying, which put him on the third row of the grid for the start of next weekend's Indianapolis 500 race alongside one of his team mates - EJ Viso - and just ahead of the team's rookie driver Rubens Barrichello.
Not that it had been an easy ride for Kanaan, who was the first man to take to the track on Saturday but who then had his qualifying time deleted because his car lacked the requisite weight ballast, meaning he had to go and do it all over again.
"It was hard enough to do it the first time. To do it again was breathtaking. But we did it; we're in," he said, after making it into the fast nine pole shoot-out with his second timed run. "I am exactly where I want to be."
If he hadn't posted that time, then Rubens Barrichello would have been into the top nine in his place after an impressive qualifying run of his own. Kanaan, of course, wasn't at all regretful to have ended up pipping his 'brother,' who is putting in his rookie appearance at the Indy 500.
"I'm going to make fun of him," laughed Kanaan. "But, you know, I think he's pretty happy for his first '500' to be in the top ten. I think it's pretty good."
Having made it into the final nine himself, Kanaan did only a single slow run in the pole shootout in order to comply with the Indy 500 qualifying format rules. He knew better than to risk the car by pushing too hard when it was clear that the Penske and Andretti Autosport teams had the top spots locked up.
"We looked at the speeds and we looked at the cars and we are going to be fighting between me, Viso and Josef [Newgarden]. That's where we still are, so I decided not to go. I think it was smarter," he said.
"We had a pretty smooth month so far. If I felt that I had a car to put it on the pole, of course I was going to be out there pounding around," he continued. "But I didn't feel the speed was there."
Instead, having got his one appearance out on track over and done with early, he could sit back and just enjoy the view. "I enjoyed watching, actually. I was waving at Marco, said hi to him on the inspection and stuff, and I just watched."
Viso was similarly content with the third row alongside Kanaan and Newgarden, having got into the top nine by the end of the main qualifying session.
"The car feels strong, consistent and stable, and that's all we need for a good race. I'm really pleased with the balance of the car," he said. "We could have gone a bit faster, but we're happy with what we got. It was a very stable run, and that is all we needed to get in the show."
Viso starts one place ahead of Indy rookie - but F1 veteran - Rubens Barrichello, who surprised many by running as fast as he did on Pole Day after a week of frustratingly slow practice.
"I'm proud, man, I'm proud. This has been a week of trying," he admitted. "I needed a little bit more time in the car for me to be able to actually go faster ... But I had a good run. That was the fastest I've ever gone.
"People at home, they might think, 'It's just four corners,'" Barrichello added. "I'll tell you - those four corners are much more difficult than many of the other corners I've done in my whole life. It's a lot of setup and a lot of things going on."
Barrichello's qualifying pace meant that all three of the KV Racing Technology cars will start in the top ten at noon on May 27. Penske also have all their cars in the top ten, while Andretti Autosport get three of their five-car squad at the front. Conspicuously missing are any of the four Ganassi cars who had been expected to be major contenders at Indianapolis, especially after Honda won the controversial turbocharger upgrade appeal decision just days before teams took to the track.
Small wonder than Kanaan was happy with the outcome. And as for that first qualifying run mistake with the weight, Kanaan not only wasn't pointing fingers at anyone - if anything, he believed that the mishap had just added to the team's determination and overall performance on the day.
"You know, we win as a team, and we lose as a team," he insisted. "I mean, my guys were all crying, and they knew they let me down. But many times I let them down. We get stronger when we have mistakes like this happening, and we get back together.
"If there is no drama for me, it is never fun. I guess I keep continuing with my legacy here of the drama!"
And now comes the challenge of the drama of Race Day itself. Kanaan will be hoping that it ends with a view from victory lane: if not for himself, then for one or other of his two team mates.