INDYCAR drivers find ways to make media day routine more fun

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GLENDALE, Ariz. – Tony Kanaan is entering his 20th season driving Indy cars, so the Chip Ganassi Racing veteran is intimately familiar with the routine of INDYCAR media day.

Pose for photos – turn to the left, turn to the right, cross your arms, hold your helmet, etc. – and then visit individual media outlets from the United States and around the world to sit down and answer, in all likelihood, the same questions over and over about the upcoming Verizon IndyCar Series season, the 101st Indianapolis 500 and what did you do in the offseason.

Kanaan has been down this road too many times before, so he can grin and bear it. Mostly because he knows what comes next.

“You learn how to enjoy it,” the 42-year-old Brazilian and driver of the No. 10 NTT Data Honda said between video shoots today at the Renaissance Phoenix Hotel & Spa adjacent to University of Phoenix Stadium that the NFL’s Arizona Cardinals call home. “It’s something that is important, it’s part of the job. Is it the most fun thing to do? No, but I think it’s extremely important.

“It’s been the same people for 20 years, so it’s the first time you get an opportunity to see a bunch of them because it’s the beginning of the season. Yeah, it’s fun. With this, you know that after today you’re done (with preseason media obligations) and you’re on track tomorrow.”

That’s the light at the end of the tunnel for the 22 Verizon IndyCar Series drivers who participated in today’s media call. All of them will participate in the two-day open test at Phoenix Raceway on Friday and Saturday – with the exception of Ed Carpenter Racing’s Spencer Pigot, who is not competing on ovals this season.

Ryan Hunter-Reay“It’s the feeling of you’re getting closer to the season opener,” said Andretti Autosport’s Ryan Hunter-Reay, the 36-year-old who’s been driving Indy cars since 2003. “I’ve done a fair share of these. By the end of the day you feel like you’ve said the same thing over and over again, in different ways, so you try and make it interesting as much as possible.”

But the 2012 Verizon IndyCar Series champ and 2014 Indy 500 winner doesn’t take it for granted. There have been enough years in the past when a ride for the season was uncertain and he didn’t know if he would have the opportunity to be part of media day.

“Every time you’re back here doing this,” Hunter-Reay said, “taking the photos, the videos and all that, I just feel grateful for being back and being able to do what I love for a living. This is all part of it and I’m happy to do it, really.”

For Team Penske driver Josef Newgarden, it’s a great chance to catch up with fellow drivers who have gone separate ways in the offseason. Granted, a similar media day last month in Indianapolis allowed for much of that to take place, but the drivers were in full firesuits for the first time today.

“It’s interesting to see what everyone’s been up to, what their changes are in their suits and their cars,” said Newgarden, who made one of the biggest shifts in moving from the Carpenter to Penske teams in the offseason – resulting in a switch from a green firesuit to a black one. “People change body shape, too. Some people put on some muscle, maybe not some good body weight, and some people get skinnier.

“It’s fun to hang out and joke a little bit before we get serious on the racetrack tomorrow.”

Helio Castroneves

A few drivers -- Kanaan, Sebastien Bourdais and Charlie Kimball -- had some fun at the expense of Marco Andretti, whose racing helmet mysteriously made its way to a perch in the middle of a hotel fountain when Andretti wasn't looking. Watch Kanaan's report here:

Hey @marcoandretti, do you need your helmet for the next shot? 😂😂😂 #IndyCarMediaDay

A video posted by IndyCar Series (@indycar) on

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