JG logo

Last updated: September 12, 2013 11:41 a.m.

Kanaan to NASCAR? Say it ain't so

Ben Smith
The Journal Gazette

Well, this is not good news.

Tony Kanaan having a sitdown with Joe Gibbs about NASCAR possibilities is not really unexpected, given the landscape of racing and Kanaan's current place in it. He may have finally broken through and won the Indianapolis 500 in May, but he's right back where he was three years ago now that his contract with KV Racing is ending.

Back then, he wound up without a ride when his long-time sponsor 7-Eleven got out of IndyCar, leaving him scrambling to put together a deal with Geico that got him a last-minute ride with KV. You might think teams would have been jumping at the chance to sign Kanaan, the 2004 series champion and one of the most popular figures in IndyCar, but in the convoluted way racing works these days, it's just not so. If you have no sponsor dollars to bring to the table, you have zero value no matter how accomplished a driver or big a name you are.

And so, consider Kanaan's visit to Gibbs a pre-emptive strike in order to avoid that situation again. Rational thought suggests it wouldn't be an optimum move for him -- unless you get hooked up with the right crew chief and the right crew, you're going to struggle in NASCAR; just ask Sam Hornish Jr. or Juan Pablo Montoya -- but it's better than nothing. And nothing's what Kanaan has right now.

You'd like to think someone in IndyCar would pick him up, if only in the best interests of the sport in general. But no one thinks that way in a sport whose life's blood is cash and plenty of it. And so there's a very real possibility that one of the sport's leading lights will be turning a wheel in something with fenders next year.

And no matter how big a blow losing Danica Patrick was, this would be a bigger one. Danica was just IndyCar's marketing presence. Kanaan is its public face, or at least one of them in a sport that needs every public face it can get.