Daytona notebook: Kanaan feeling at home in Ford GT

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DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – Tony Kanaan longed for the opportunity to drive a Ford GT at this year’s Rolex 24 At Daytona because of the car’s iconic heritage and its sleek looks.

So far, the Indy car veteran is soaking in the experience and finding the car even more to his liking than he thought.

Kanaan is teamed with Chip Ganassi Racing’s World Endurance Championship regulars Andy Priaulx and Harry Tincknell in the No. 69 entry. Priaulx qualified the car sixth in the GT Le Mans class and 20th overall Thursday – the slowest of the four Ganassi Ford GTs.

Still, Kanaan – who will begin his 20th season of Indy car competition at the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg in March – remains confident in the car’s and his team’s abilities. The 17-time Indy car race winner has also been surprised with how similar the sports car drives compared to his Verizon IndyCar Series machine.

“This car, the Ford GT, I would call an open-wheel car with closed wheels and a roof,” Kanaan said today. “It’s really forgiving, very friendly to drive and it’s fast. The biggest adaptation between an open-wheel car to a closed-cockpit car – a touring car, we’ll call it – it’s the speed and the grip. And this car actually is one of the closest things I’ve driven to an open-wheel (car), so it didn’t take long for me to adapt.”

The 55-car field is slated to start the 55th running of the Rolex 24 at 2:30 p.m. ET Saturday.

Ganassi receives RRDC’s Phil Hill Award

Longtime Indy car team owner Chip Ganassi was honored by the Road Racing Drivers Club with the 2017 Phil Hill Award at its annual members’ dinner Wednesday night in conjunction with the Rolex 24 At Daytona.

Chip Ganassi and Bobby RahalThe Phil Hill Award has been presented annually since 1993 to the person who the RRDC feels has rendered outstanding service to road racing. It is named in honor of America’s first Formula One champion (in 1961).

“Phil Hill represented everything that was great about the American spirit internationally,” said Bobby Rahal, the RRDC president who, like Ganassi, is a team owner in both the Verizon IndyCar Series and IMSA sports cars. “He was the first U.S. Formula One champion and multi-time winner of Le Mans. He was a gentleman in the finest sense of the word. 

"We think the Phil Hill Award represents something that's very special in motorsport,” Rahal added. “And Chip Ganassi clearly lives up to that example. He is indeed a worthy recipient of the Phil Hill Award."

Ganassi has been an auto racing fixture for more than 30 years, fielding teams in the Verizon IndyCar Series, NASCAR, IMSA and the FIA World Endurance Championship. In 2012, he was named by Complex Magazine as one of the “50 most influential people in the auto industry." Ganassi is the only owner to win the Indianapolis 500, Daytona 500, Brickyard 400, Rolex 24 At Daytona, 12 Hours of Sebring and 24 Hours of Le Mans.

"Winning an award that has Phil Hill's name on it is certainly something that you have to be proud of,” Ganassi said. “Anybody who has been around racing for any length of time and understands the history of the sport would certainly have Phil Hill on their list of heroes. Yes, this is truly an honor, I can tell you.”

Andretti to receive Cameron R. Argetsinger Award

Mario Andretti, the 1969 Indianapolis 500 winner and four-time Indy car champion, will receive the prestigious Cameron R. Argetsinger Award for Outstanding Contribution to Motorsports at the fourth annual International Motor Racing Research Center dinner Aug. 31 in Corning, N.Y.

The dinner is held in conjunction with the INDYCAR Grand Prix at The Glen race weekend at Watkins Glen International, the 16th race on the 2017 Verizon IndyCar Series schedule. The IMRRC’s mission is to preserve and share the history of motorsports worldwide.

Argetsinger led the group that created the Watkins Glen track. Past winners of the Argetsinger award include Chip Ganassi and Roger Penske.

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