IZOD IndyCar Series star and fan favorite Tony Kanaan shares a commonality with last week’s Online Instructor, Joey Hand, having also overcame humble beginnings to reach the pinnacle of his profession.
Originally from Salvador, Brazil, Kanaan began karting at age 8 and almost immediately marked himself as a potential future star. After winning six championships – often trading duties as a mechanic and driver coach to pay for seat time – Kanaan graduated into Formula Ford and then Formula Chevrolet in his native Brazil before setting his sights on Europe.
He settled in Italy (despite barely speaking the language) and frequently slept in the team’s race shop as he moved up through the Formula Opel Euroseries to the Italian Formula Alfa-Boxer Championship, which he won in 1994, and then Formula 3.
His big break came in 1996, when he won a shootout to join Steve Horne’s Tasman Motorsports Group team in the Firestone Indy Lights Championship. Kanaan finished second in his rookie season, won the title a year later and then graduated to the top level in 1998, again scooping Rookie of the Year honors.
To date, he has competed in 257 INDYCAR-level races, winning 15 and claiming 15 poles. He won the IZOD IndyCar Series championship in 2004 for Andretti Green Racing and in 2013 will remain with KV Racing Technology for the third successive year.
Kanaan won the LMP2 class in his sports car debut at the 2007 Twelve Hours of Sebring, and last weekend contested his second Rolex 24 GRAND-AM race at Daytona.
“I love being able to connect with the fans, that’s why I’m so active on social media like Twitter and Instagram,” said Kanaan. “So there’s nothing more natural than to accept this invitation to be part of the SAFEisFAST.com group and be able to answer some tech and general questions for my fans.”