Kanaan switched to McLaren SP because he was last on Ganassi’s list

Tony Kanaan (foreground) and Jimmie Johnson (background)

Tony Kanaan says he moved to McLaren SP for next year’s Indianapolis 500 because he was last in the pecking order at Chip Ganassi Racing.

The 47-year-old has spent the last two IndyCar seasons at Ganassi, the highlight of which was the third place in his sole start of 2022, at The Brickyard.

That was in its fifth car, with Kanaan having contested all the oval events in 2021 before Jimmie Johnson decided to go full-time in the competition.

However, Johnson is now entering semi-retirement, and he is in the frame for an extra Ganassi car for the Indy 500, while questions remain about whether or not there will be a fourth full-time entry in 2023.

In comments to Gran Premio in his native Brazil, Kanaan explained that he could see the writing on the wall.

“They’re still trying to figure out who’s going to drive the fourth car,” he said.

“There in the queue there’s Jimmie Johnson for the fifth car and Tony Kanaan, what? For the sixth car?”

“In everyone’s hierarchy, I was the last on the list and I knew it,” added Kanaan.

Now, he has been confirmed in McLaren SP’s extra, fourth car for the 107th running of the 500.

That also ticks a box for the papaya outfit, with McLaren Racing CEO Zak Brown having stated his preference for an experienced driver, notwithstanding the interest from Kyle Busch and the attention which the two-time NASCAR Cup Series champion would surely have created.

However, there are no hard feelings from Kanaan towards Chip Ganassi.

“He had nothing to offer me at that moment,” explained the 2013 Indianapolis 500 winner, with KV Racing Technology.

“He said ‘It won’t be fair for me to tell you to wait, because later it might not happen.’

“At the same time, I was like, ‘Chip, I hope you respect me, that you respect my decision, but I really don’t want to wait.’”

Ganassi had already fielded Kanaan for four IndyCar seasons, from 2014 to 2017, before giving him another shot after 2020 was supposed to be the veteran’s ‘last lap’ of his career.

“It’s a very good feeling that I had the opportunity to be grateful for this second chance they gave me and to be able to leave with a sense of accomplishment,” he remarked.

Thus far, Ganassi has locked in 2022 Indy 500 winner Marcus Ericsson, six-time champion Scott Dixon, and 2021 champion Alex Palou for the 2023 campaign.

McLaren SP is sorted already, with Kanaan joining full-timers Pato O’Ward, Felix Rosenqvist, and 2016 Indy 500 winner Alexander Rossi, the latter of whom has defected from Andretti Autosport.

With that quartet, it can boast all four of the drivers who finished second through fifth in last year’s 200-lapper at The Brickyard.

This year’s 500 takes place on Sunday, May 28.

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