Tony Kanaan will be returning to IndyCar in 2021, a part-time arrangement with Chip Ganassi Racing that was announced by the team earlier in the week.
The 45-year-old veteran will share a ride with NASCAR legend Jimmie Johnson, who will be shifting his career to open-wheel racing for the first time next year.
Kanaan had originally planned for this past season to be his last in the sport, even promoting a #TKLastLap campaign for his outgoing year, but the emergence of a global pandemic led to very few fans being allowed to attend the races in person.
As one of IndyCar’s most popular drivers, it simply was not an option for him to bow out without being able to celebrate with the fans properly.
“I think that was the only reason, really, that I said I wanted to come back,” said Kanaan. “I mean, there is no other reason.
“There were some talks about doing the [Indianapolis] 500 and on and off and this and that, but it wasn’t clear.
“I mean, do I want to win the 500? 100 percent. Am I in the best place to do so? 100 percent now.
“But the sole decision to come back from day one was because it wasn’t fair for the fans.”
Kanaan has won the Indy 500 once before in 2013, but is now looking forward to having a couple more chances at winning the infamous race in front of packed grandstands.
As a long-time presence in the paddock, the Brazilian has connections to sponsors and teams alike that allowed his new deal to come together.
Even though he had been talking with people about this possibility for a majority of the year, the pieces only fell into place last week.
“The talks were always there,” explained Kanaan. “As long as you’re out of contract, you are talking to everybody, right?
“We talked to other teams. And in the meantime everything else was happening. We got it done in amazingly record time, for how complicated the deal was.
“It’s been a surreal last few days. This thing happened so quick. [It was completed] a week ago.
“I keep saying it’s probably one of the best opportunities of my career. It’s the best opportunity for me to leave this series, because I am telling you this time for sure in two years I will not be racing when I’m 50, but I said that two years ago.
“To leave on a high note, that would be great. I will do everything I can to do it!”
Kanaan’s first race weekend behind the wheel in his 24th season will be the double-header from Texas Motor Speedway on May 1-2, 2021.