IndyCar: Tony Kanaan could make another 'final' Indy 500 start

2013 Indy 500 winner Tony Kanaan is the backup driver for Kyle Larson at Arrow McLaren if Larson is unable to compete in this year's Indy 500.
Tony Kanaan, Arrow McLaren, Indy 500, IndyCar
Tony Kanaan, Arrow McLaren, Indy 500, IndyCar / Justin Casterline/GettyImages

Tony Kanaan's initial "Last Lap" tour was announced ahead of the 2020 IndyCar season, when he scaled back from full-time competition and confirmed his plans to run only the oval races, including the Indy 500.

Even after COVID-19-related restrictions resulted in schedule changes that year, Kanaan stuck to his plan, and when the oval portion of the season wrapped up, he acknowledged that it might be the end of a storied career which saw him win both the 2004 IndyCar championship and the 2013 Indy 500.

But in 2021, when seven-time NASCAR Cup Series champion Jimmie Johnson joined Chip Ganassi Racing for just the road and street course races, the opportunity to return for the oval races once again made sense for Kanaan, who had competed for Chip Ganassi's team full-time from 2014 to 2017.

Then in 2022, Kanaan simply couldn't stay away, and while Johnson had become a full-time driver and competed in the Indy 500 himself, Kanaan put together the funding to return to Chip Ganassi Racing for the "Greatest Spectacle in Racing" in a fifth car.

In 2023, Kanaan confirmed that the next Indy 500 would be the last, and he competed one final time for Arrow McLaren, where he now serves in an advisory role.

But after four "final" Indy 500 attempts in a row, could a fifth be on the way for the fan-favorite?

Kanaan is reportedly the backup driver for Kyle Larson, who is set to compete in the Indy 500 for the first time for Arrow McLaren this year through a partnership with his NASCAR Cup Series team, Hendrick Motorsports.

Larson is attempting to become just the fifth driver to run the Memorial Day Double, driving in the Indy 500 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway before flying to Charlotte Motor Speedway to compete in the Coca-Cola 600. It hasn't been done since Kurt Busch in 2014, and only Tony Stewart (2001) has run all 1,100 miles. Larson's effort has been dubbed the "Hendrick 1,100".

But Larson has made clear that, in the event that the two events conflict due to a weather postponement (or postponements), his priority, as expected, is the Coca-Cola 600, given his role as a full-time Cup Series driver.

Because Larson successfully qualified the No. 17 McLaren-Hendrick Chevrolet into the 33-car field for the 108th running of the Indy 500, the car is eligible for a replacement driver, if need be.

While Kanaan, who is officially Arrow McLaren's sporting director, is the designated backup, that doesn't guarantee that he will be the one to replace Larson. He would need to complete a veteran refresher program first, and there is no guarantee that he will even be allowed to do that at this stage.

But it could happen, which would result in Kanaan being back for a 23rd career Indy 500 attempt.

The Indy 500 has not been postponed since 1997, while the Coca-Cola 600 was just pushed back by a day last year. At this time of year especially, you never can trust the weather forecasts in Speedway, Indiana or Concord, North Carolina, and rain is always a possibility.

And as long as rain is a possibility, so is a fifth edition of a Tony Kanaan "Last Lap" tour.

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As of now, NBC is set to provide live coverage of the Indy 500 from Indianapolis Motor Speedway beginning at 11:00 a.m. ET on Sunday, May 26. Fox is set to provide live coverage of the Coca-Cola 600 from Charlotte Motor Speedway beginning at 6:00 p.m. ET later that evening. Start a free trial of FuboTV and don't miss any of the action, whether it's delayed by rain or not!