When Tony Kanaan announced his retirement from IndyCar racing in the 2020 season, it was with the hope that he’d be able to go out on a high: racing hard, celebrating with fans, and enjoying a little fanfare after over two decades in the sport. COVID-19 put a damper on those plans, turning what should have been a celebratory part-time season into a bit of a disappointment.
That’s where Chip Ganassi Racing steps in.
Jimmie Johnson’s rookie year in IndyCar racing will come in 2021, but he’s only running a part-time schedule: all the road courses, none of the ovals. Those ovals, Johnson decided, are the perfect place to slot in one of the most seasoned drivers on the circuit.
Two champions—one a rookie and one a veteran—are set to share the No. 48 car for the 2021 season. Pretty poetic, right?
“I was on the way out and all of a sudden I get a call from Jimmie about running the ovals. He kept saying ‘Doesn’t this make sense?’” Kanaan told The Associated Press. “They didn’t have to twist my arm to come back, especially with Jimmie and Chip.”
With a lineup like that, you wouldn’t have to twist my arm, either.
Kanaan’s deal with CGR is set to last for two years, where he’ll play the oval foil to Johnson’s road course racing. That means that, even if the whole pandemic situation hasn’t calmed down by the time we go racing in 2021, Kanaan fans will still have another year to get out there and see their favorite driver run.
Here’s more from Kanaan:
I guess I must have done something really good in my life. Once you leave a team Ganassi, you don’t get a chance to come back, especially at this time in my career. This is just a perfect fit. It is so obvious, as Jimmie said, for me to race the ovals that he does not want to race.
Because of the pandemic, I expressed a desire to come back and do ovals. I never said I wanted to do a full season because I was realistic. So this is just too good to refuse.
Kanaan is, of course, referring to the fact that he raced with CGR for four years, from 2014-17, before he was left to pursue an opportunity with A. J. Foyt Racing. With a best finish of seventh overall in the championship during the CGR years, Kanaan’s performance was good, but it did leave a little something to be desired. He’s not going to be winning any championships only racing a few times a year, but he will be doing something he loves, which is a win in and of itself.
2021's CGR lineup is absolutely stacked. The team has once again moved to a four-car format after trimming things down over the past few years. You’ve got:
- Scott Dixon, defending champion
- Marcus Ericsson, former Formula One driver and steadily improving IndyCar driver
- Alex Palou, one of 2020's most impressive rookies earning a promotion for his sophomore season
- Jimmie Johnson and Tony Kanaan—two legends in their own right—sharing the No. 48
It’s going to be one hell of a season to pay attention to.