Tony Kanaan, who turned 47 on December 31, will continue racing in 2022, with plans to drive at least in the 106th Running of the Indianapolis 500.
Even though Kanaan originally expected 2020 to be his final season, two things kept Kanaan going.
Even though this year’s Indy 500 is the only IndyCar race on Kanaan’s 2022 dance card thus far, he’ll be far from idle.
Tony Kanaan’s “Last Lap Tour," which was how his last season as an active IndyCar driver was billed, was supposed to be in 2020, when he drove a part-time campaign for A.J. Foyt Racing.
But you might say that Last Lap is continuing into double overtime, as Kanaan, who turned 47 on December 31, will continue competing in 2022, with plans to drive at least in the 106th Running of the Indianapolis 500.
But even that STILL won’t be TK’s last lap in IndyCar racing—at least he hopes not.
Kanaan said during Monday’s first of two IndyCar media days in Indianapolis that he intends to stick around for one last appearance in the Greatest Spectacle In Racing in 2023.
And then that will likely be it, Kanaan said.
Then again, maybe not.
“I jumped the gun three years ago when I said that was going to be my last (season),” Kanaan said of 2020. “I actually decided that that's gone. We called it TK’s Last Lap three years ago, and we're still doing laps.
“Obviously we knew it was a two-year deal (a part-time deal for 2021 and 2022 with Chip Ganassi Racing). Do I have anything lined up for next year? No. Do I still want to do it? 100 percent. Do I think I can do it? 100 percent.
“Look at what happened to Helio (Castroneves came back part-time in 2021 and won a record-tying fourth Indy 500). My question would be what if we go and win No. 2 (Indy 500, he won his first in 2013), are we coming back or not? I'm actually not announcing anything because I don't know.
“I can tell you my intentions are (this year) not to be the last one. Next year will be my 25th year in IndyCar, and I think it would be pretty cool if I could do that.
“We'll see, but for now '22 is just ‘Tony's Another Indy 500.’”
Even though he originally expected 2020 to be his final season, two things kept Kanaan going.
First was the Covid-19 pandemic and the havoc it wreaked on the IndyCar world. “(2020) was not the way I wanted to go out,” Kanaan said.
Second, former boss Chip Ganassi reached out to Kanaan to serve as a mentor and also to drive all five oval races in 2021 for seven-time NASCAR Cup champion Jimmie Johnson, who drove only road and street course events in his rookie IndyCar season.
With Johnson running the entire season in 2022, that has further cut Kanaan’s IndyCar schedule to just the 500 at this point. But he’s looking forward to finally racing against his teammate in this year’s 500.
“I'm really happy to be back,” Kanaan said. “Obviously with my partner in crime Jimmie doing a full season, a lot of people were asking questions, but it was never a doubt that we were finally going to race together.
“People didn't realize that we shared a car last year, but I never really raced with Jimmie. This year we have the opportunity to be -- we were teammates but really not because when I was in the car he wasn't and vice versa. Pretty excited about that.”
Even though this year’s Indy 500 is the only IndyCar race on Kanaan’s dance card thus far, he’ll be far from idle.
“I have a pretty busy schedule,” Kanaan said. “I'm doing 10 stock car races in Brazil, six SRX (Superstar Racing Experience) races with Tony Stewart during the summer, and three Porsche Cup races, endurance races. (It will be) more races than I've done in the past 21 years.”
But the 500 is front-and-center on Kanaan’s radar.
“Chip takes the 500 as the race of the team's life, and we're there to win, and he knows that I can win, as well,” Kanaan said. “Obviously I wouldn't be racing for Chip if he didn't believe I could win, if I didn't convince him I could win.
“To me the point was made when we qualified in the second row. We were fighting for the lead right away. We got caught before the first stop on the yellow and never recovered. It wasn't just me, it was a few other guys, but that's the way the race went.
“I'm excited about coming back, coming back with one of the best teams in IndyCar, the reigning champions of the championship, the runner-up at the 500 (teammate Alex Palou). So we're there. … Like I said, I think it's going to be a great year for me.”
Follow Autoweek contributor Jerry Bonkowski on Twitter @JerryBonkowski