Talk to Tony Kanaan about the Indianapolis 500 and it becomes immediately clear that winning that race in 2013 was a life-changing event for him.
So big, in fact, that he rates it with marriage and the births of his two sons as the most important events of his life. So big that he even had the image of the Borg-Warner Trophy — which is awarded to the race’s winner — tattooed on his right arm.
“Yeah, it changes your life,” the affable 41-year-old Brazilian tells Zap2it, “although I would kid myself before I had won, ‘Well maybe if I don’t win, it will be OK.’ I was definitely going to be OK because you have no choice. But it definitely changed my life. Now, everywhere you go you’re the Indy 500 winner. You know, it doesn’t matter. That’s your title, like when they’re going to present you to do something, you’re the Indy 500 winner and obviously your face goes on a trophy, your name is in a museum. You become a legend pretty much.”
Kanaan will be in the field of 33 for the “Greatest Spectacle in Racing,” the Indianapolis 500, airing live from Indianapolis Motor Speedway Sunday, May 29, on ABC.
As a 20-plus-year veteran of open-wheel racing, there isn’t much Kanaan hasn’t won. In addition to his victory at the Brickyard, he’s racked up 16 other wins in IndyCar, won the series championship in 2004 and even took the Rolex 24 at Daytona last year.
This year’s race at Indy is the 100th overall and while Kanaan would love to win it, he isn’t putting extra pressure on himself.
“To me as a driver, if you ask, ‘Which 500 do you want to win?’ I mean, it doesn’t matter if it’s the 91st, the 110th,” he says. “But of course, it will be cool. It’s an extra thing but it’s cool to win the Indy 500 and it will be extra cool to win the 100th.”