Kanaan Extends Contract
October 31, 2003 | 11:30 A.M. EST
Kanaan, who initially signed a two-year contract with the team in September 2002, drove the No. 11 Team 7-Eleven Dallara/Honda/Firestone to a fourth-place finish in this year’s IndyCar Series championship.
"I'm very happy to announce that we’ve extended Tony Kanaan’s contract through the 2008 season," said Michael Andretti, who owns the team along with partners Kim Green and Kevin Savoree. "Tony Kanaan is the kind of guy that a lot of people would want driving for them. Every time he is in the car, he stands on the gas and gives it 100 percent. That is the type of guy we want helping to lead Andretti Green Racing. Tony loves being on this team and we're really happy to extend his contract. He's going to be a big part of the future of this team."
Kanaan gave Andretti Green Racing its first win in the IndyCar Series at Phoenix International Raceway on March 23, 2003. He went on to lead the series point standings a leaguehigh nine weeks before ending the year in fourth place -- the best points performance of his sixyear open-wheel career. Kanaan sat atop the point standings for six consecutive weeks following a third-place finish in the 87th Indianapolis 500 and was in a position to win the IndyCar Series championship until a cut tire ended his bid with 21 laps to go in the series finale at Texas Motor Speedway.
"I'm really excited about my contract extension with Andretti Green Racing," said Kanaan, who scored one win, nine top-five and 12 top-10 finishes in 16 starts this season. "It's what I wanted, where I wanted to be and with the people that I wanted to be with. I’m extremely happy about it and am really looking forward to a winning future with Team 7-Eleven.
"In 2002, Michael (Andretti) showed a lot of faith in my potential when he asked me to drive for his team even though I hadn’t had as good a year as I would have liked," said Kanaan. "I hope I gave him everything he expected. I feel very, very good about what we accomplished together in just one year. Honda provided me with everything they could to give me a shot at the championship and they never stopped pushing all season. I think we can do a lot more together in the years we have in front of us and can hopefully give Honda another string of championships." Kanaan will join 2003 IndyCar Series Rookie-of-the-Year Dan Wheldon at Andretti Green, whose contract renewal was announced yesterday. Kanaan’s primary sponsor, 7-Eleven, announced on Oct. 12 it would be returning for the 2004 season, while Wheldon’s major backers, Klein Tools and Jim Beam, announced their contract renewals with the team on Wednesday.
A major force behind Kanaan's 2004 effort will be Honda Performance Development (HPD). Honda entered Indy Racing League competition for the first time in 2003 and enjoyed its first series victory with Kanaan at Phoenix. Andretti Green driver Bryan Herta followed-up Kanaan’s triumph with Honda’s second series win at Kansas Speedway on July 6. Prior to entering the IRL, Honda took part in the CART series from 1994 to 2002, where the company won four manufacturers' championships (1996, 98, 99, 01) and six consecutive drivers’ titles (1996-2001).