Going into Grand Prix of Long Beach, Tony Kanaan is where he belongs

No matter where he starts Sunday's race, veteran IndyCar driver Tony Kanaan believes he is sitting pretty.

Kanaan, a fan favorite who won the Indianapolis 500 for the first time last year, was hired by the powerhouse team of Target Chip Ganassi Racing this year.

The 39-year-old Brazilian took over the car formerly driven by his good friend Dario Franchitti, the four-time IndyCar champion who retired after being seriously hurt in a crash in Houston last October.

Kanaan qualified second and finished sixth in the season opener March 30 on the streets of St. Petersburg, Fla., and Sunday's Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach will be his second race driving Ganassi's No. 10 car.

Kanaan has never won Long Beach and his best finish in 10 starts was third in 2009. But he did win a series title in 2004 when he was driving for what is now called the Andretti Autosport team.

Andretti, co-owned by former driver Michael Andretti, released him after the 2010 season because of a lack of sponsorship.

So Kanaan spent the next three years driving for the smaller team KV Racing Technology, where Kanaan himself often had to help recruit corporate backers.

Now, "I've just got to worry about driving and I love it," said Kanaan, known as "T.K." in the IndyCar garage.

"I'm in a very good place in my life and in my career," he said. "I don't think I have, at this point, anything to prove to anybody."

Kanaan was 10th fastest of 23 cars in the first practice Friday in Long Beach, then 16th in the second session. But the top 19 cars in the second practice were within one second of each other.

James Hinchcliffe had the fastest lap in the first practice at 101.485 mph on the 1.97-mile, 11-turn street course, and Simon Pagenaud topped the second practice at 102.457 mph.

Kanaan said he could have stopped racing three years ago when he was released by Andretti and still been proud of his career.

He had won a championship and was prepared "to be known like Michael [Andretti], the guy who had never won the [Indy] 500 but was very successful.

"But I said no, I'm going to find some money and go racing," Kanaan said.

While that led to his Indy 500 victory, and its $2.3-million winner's prize, "I never thought in a million years that I was going to be racing for Chip" Ganassi, whose other drivers include Scott Dixon, the three-time and reigning champion, Kanaan said.

"I'm on a team that wanted me to drive for them," Kanaan said. "You can't tell me I was the only option [among available drivers] because I was not, I know that for a fact. That makes me very confident."


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