Kanaan Muscles To Lead
June 25, 2003 | 12:10 A.M. EST
However, Kanaan will get some assistance this weekend at Richmond International Raceway from one of the most legendary and recognizable characters in comic book history. As a follow-up to the recent release of the feature film Hulk, Kanaan’s familiar green and white #11 Team 7-Eleven Dallara will feature a green and purple paint scheme complete with a Hulk graphics package. The new look is part of a program spearheaded by Action Performance Companies, in cooperation with Marvel Enterprises Inc., and Universal Pictures, that also runs through series in NASCAR, NHRA and World of Outlaws.
While the livery on the car will be new for Saturday night’s race, Kanaan is counting on his performance looking much like it has all season. The 28-year-old Brazilian -- who holds a 49-point lead in the series standings -- has one win, five top five finishes and is the only driver to lead at least one lap in each of the first six events held thus far. But, even with all that to his credit, Kanaan knows that his first race at Richmond will be unlike any other he has entered in 2003.
“I would say that Richmond will be the most difficult race of the year,” said Kanaan, who is riding a string of thee consecutive top-three finishes. “It’s very demanding, very physical. But, hopefully we’ll have a good car there. I know our car will look good, since we’ll be running the ‘Hulk’ car there. If we can get it to run as good as it looks, I think we’ll have a great night. Consistency will be the key. But, it will -- for sure -- be the toughest race track that we’ll race on.”
Andretti Green Racing president Kim Green helped direct Kanaan’s test on May 29 and 30 at Richmond and agrees that 250 laps around the three-quarter mile tri-oval will be as demanding as any race all year.
“I watched that race last year on television, and I think it’s going to be one of the more challenging races for the drivers,” said Green. “It’s such a ‘busy’ little racetrack. I think it’s going to be hard on them both physically and mentally. With the distance of that race on such a short track and the speeds we’re running – 160-plus miles an hour -- they’ll have to pay such close attention to everything around them. “I expect our race Saturday will be much like flying F-16s around the inside of the RCA Dome.”
Knowing that the best way to stay atop the series points is to win races, a victory Saturday night has added importance for Kanaan and his Team 7-Eleven crew. “It’s hard to describe,” said Kanaan, “but the pride that goes into winning the toughest race of the year – it’s a big thing. Looking at it as one race, it would mean a lot to me. But, it would also mean a lot toward the championship.”