IndyCar: Tony Kanaan to extend all-time record one final time

An all-time record that was initially slated to end when the 2020 IndyCar season began is set to continue for Tony Kanaan this evening at Texas Motor Speedway.

You have to go back nearly 19 years to find the most recent IndyCar race in which Tony Kanaan did not compete.

It was Saturday, June 16, 2001 when Kanaan, driving the #55 Honda for Mo Nunn Racing, wrecked during the qualifying session for Sunday afternoon’s CART race, the Tenneco Automotive Grand Prix of Detroit, on the streets of Belle Isle in Detroit, Michigan. He was withdrawn from the race due to the concussion he suffered in this wreck.

He hasn’t missed a race since, as the now 45-year-old Brazilian finished out the season by competing in 14 consecutive races, the first of which being the Freightliner / G.I. Joe’s 200 presented by Texaco at Portland International Raceway on Sunday, June 24, 2001.

Kanaan competed in all 19 races on the 2002 CART schedule and made his Indianapolis 500 debut that year before making the full-time move to the IndyCar Series in the 2003 season.

On Sunday, September 1, 2013 on the streets of Baltimore, Maryland just outside Camden Yards, where Baltimore Orioles Hall of Famer Cal Ripken Jr. ironically played in his record-breaking 2,131st consecutive MLB game, Kanaan broke the all-time consecutive starts record of 211 with his 212th.

The record had been held by Jimmy Vasser, the co-owner of the team for which Kanaan was competing at the time, KV Racing Technology.

Even since that day, Kanaan hasn’t missed a race. The 2004 IndyCar champion and 2013 Indianapolis 500 winner has competed in each of the last 317 races.

That streak was not initially slated to continue. Kanaan signed a deal to return to A.J. Foyt Enterprises for a third consecutive year this season, but only as a part-time, ovals-only driver.

The season was initially scheduled to get underway on Sunday, March 15 on the streets of St. Petersburg, Florida, with Sebastien Bourdais behind the wheel of the #14 Chevrolet and Kanaan not competing for the first time in nearly two decades.

But the coronavirus pandemic caused those plans to change. The first eight races on the 17-race schedule ended up being postponed or canceled, making the race at Texas Motor Speedway the season opener.

That race, the Genesys 300, is an oval race, and it is scheduled to take place this evening.

Kanaan is set to pilot the #14 Chevrolet in this 200-lap race around the four-turn, 1.5-mile (2.414-kilometer) oval in Fort Worth, Texas to compete in his 318th consecutive race and extend his record for the 107th time.

But beyond this evening, that streak will end.

The next oval race on the schedule is not scheduled to take place until Friday, July 17 at Iowa Speedway. Before then, there are three road course races on the schedule, one at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course on Saturday, July 4 and another two at Road America on Saturday, July 11 and Sunday, July 12.

Set to drive the #14 Chevrolet in those three races is rookie Dalton Kellett.

When Kanaan’s streak ends, the longest active streak is slated to belong to Chip Ganassi Racing’s Scott Dixon. He has competed in 258 consecutive races. Next up on the list is Andretti Herta Autosport with Marco Andretti and Curb-Agajanian’s Marco Andretti with 234 consecutive starts. Andretti Autosport’s Ryan Hunter-Reay sits two starts behind Vasser’s now fourth place mark with 209 consecutive starts to his name.

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Tune in to NBC this evening at 8:00 p.m. ET for the live broadcast of the Genesys 300 from Texas Motor Speedway to see Tony Kanaan make the 318th and final start of his record streak that dates back to June of 2001.