Legend, meet legend.
Tony Kanaan and A.J. Foyt, two of Indy car racing’s most iconic names, will join forces for the 2018 Verizon IndyCar Series season, AJ Foyt Racing announced today at the Foyt Wine Vault in Speedway, Indiana, next door to the team’s secondary race shop.
“It’s two legends together,” Kanaan said. “Even before I ever considered driving for him, he was saying nice things about me, like I would be good in the old times and that I reminded him of himself. Coming from a guy like that, it’s big.”
Foyt, the four-time Indy 500 winner, holds numerous Indy car records, including most career victories (67) and championships (seven). Kanaan has 17 career wins, including the 2013 Indianapolis 500. It’s the first time Foyt has hired an Indy 500 winner for a full-season ride.
“What I like about Tony is that he always charges – win, lose or draw,” Foyt said. “The boys we’ve had have been good boys, don’t get me wrong, but they just aren't the quality that Tony Kanaan is. When we had a chance to get him, we did it. We wanted him real bad. I think it’s going to move AJ Foyt Racing up a bit.”
The multiyear contract includes longtime sponsor ABC Supply Co. and engineer Eric Cowdin, who was with Kanaan for the Indy 500 victory with KV Racing Technology, Kanaan’s 2004 Verizon IndyCar Series championship with Andretti-Green Racing and 15 of Kanaan’s race wins. Specifics of the deal were not disclosed.
“It’s a big challenge for both of us,” said Kanaan, who hasn’t visited victory lane since the 2014 season finale at Auto Club Speedway, 50 races ago. “They want to raise the level of the team, and I want to raise the level of the team. I still think I can do the job, so it’s a perfect fit for both of us. It will be really rewarding when we can prove that we can both still do it. That’s the drive that we have.”
Kanaan celebrated his 20th season racing Indy cars this year. The 1997 Indy Lights champion debuted with Tasman Motorsports the following year and drove for Forsythe Racing and Mo Nunn Racing before making the move to Andretti in 2003, where he spent eight successful seasons. He drove for KV Racing from 2011-13, where he collected the career-defining Indianapolis 500 win. The native of Salvador de Bahia, Brazil, spent the past four years with Chip Ganassi Racing after replacing close friend Dario Franchitti, who retired following the 2013 season.
Kanaan will drive the Foyt team’s iconic No. 14 Chevrolet next season. The operation will be based at Foyt’s shop in Speedway. The team's No. 4 car will be based at the team's home shop in Waller, Texas, just outside Houston. A driver for the No. 4 has yet to be announced.
Kanaan has been in the team's sight for some time.
“It just felt like he’d be a good fit for us,” said Larry Foyt, the team president and A.J.’s son. “The experience he brings is great, especially with us being on a new path toward being an engineering-led team. The experience he brings is very good for us. I feel like he’s got a lot of good racing left in him.”
Cowdin, who earned a degree in aerospace engineering at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University and a master’s at Virginia Tech, is a respected engineer who has also worked for Team Penske and most recently Chip Ganassi Racing, where he was paired with Kanaan part of the time.
“I'm looking forward to continuing my long relationship with TK and reuniting with the folks at Chevy,” said Cowdin, who will serve as the team’s technical director. “We have a big challenge ahead of us with the new universal aero kit, and I can't wait to get started."
The pairing of two of the sport’s most popular figures is likely to bring enormous attention, especially at Indianapolis. A.J. Foyt, who once lived a few blocks from Indianapolis Motor Speedway, is prepared for the additional scrutiny.
“We’d been getting notification from me racing, but I’m not racing no more,” Foyt said. “Our team has gone from the front row to the back row. I think Tony can move it up. Every year we’ve been trying to get better, so when Tony became available, we jumped at it. I think he can go to the winner’s circle. I know he can.”
For his part, Kanaan is working closely with the Foyts to piece together supporting sponsors and technical help.
“It’s a good story, but once you get past that part of it, you have to perform,” Kanaan said. “We’re doing everything we can to hire the right people and make big changes and put in major investments to get all those people. There’s a lot of effort and time spent and a lot of commitment from a lot of people. That’s why it’s a perfect fit.”
For more information about Team Chevy, visit https://www.facebook.com/TeamChevy/.