Kanaan To Claim Record Start Streak At Ironman's Home

by
Reuters
A city that was home to one of the greatest 'Ironman' streaks in American sport will see another endurance mark fall on Sunday when Brazilian Tony Kanaan makes his record 212th IndyCar start at the Grand Prix of Baltimore.

Tony Kanaan of Brazil is congratulated by other drivers after winning the 97th running of the Indianapolis 500 at the Indianapolis Motor   Speedway in Indianapolis

A city that was home to one of the greatest 'Ironman' streaks in American sport will see another endurance mark fall on Sunday when Brazilian Tony Kanaan makes his record 212th IndyCar start at the Grand Prix of Baltimore.

When Kanaan slides into his KV Racing Technology Dallara Cheverolet on Sunday he will speed past Camden Yards, the Major League Baseball ballpark where Baltimore Orioles shortstop Cal Ripken Jr. broke Lou Gehrig's long-standing record by playing his 2,131st consecutive game 18 years ago.

Kanaan's milestone will not be viewed with the same awe as Ripken's - which fans voted the most memorable moment in Major League Baseball - but in many ways it is a no less remarkable an achievement coming in the high-risk world of motor sport where disaster lurks at every turn.

Ripken would go onto play in 2,632 games before voluntarily ending his streak in 1998, establishing himself as an American sporting icon for his work ethic, showing up at the ballpark every day for 17 years playing through pain and injuries.

But Kanaan's dedication to his craft and competitive spirit also cannot be questioned and the Indianapolis 500 winner has the scars, metal plates and screws holding his body together to prove it.

"I don't know if I'm a tough guy or not, I've raced through some of the injuries that I've had in the past," Kanaan, 38, told reporters in a pre-race press conference on Friday. "I have some tough competition behind me, young guys that are going to be here forever, so hopefully we'll keep stretching that so it will take a long time to beat.

"I'm getting old, but I'm still going; that's what matters. I have the passion. It's always nice to break a record, regardless of what it is."

Kanaan's streak began in 2001 at the Portland Grand Prix after he had been forced out of the previous race in Detroit with a concussion. He would race in the final 14 events in 2001 and has been on the starting grid for every race over the next 12 seasons despite horrific crashes and agonizing injuries.

In 2003, Kanaan broke his arm at a race in Japan but was back in the car for the Indianapolis 500 weeks later.

During the Indy 500 in 2009 Kanaan destroyed his car after slamming into a wall but again was back on the grid for the next race in Milwaukee.

He was burned in a pit lane fire in Edmonton and this year sustained torn ligaments in his right thumb in a crash at Long Beach but it was still not enough to stop the tough-as-nails Brazilian from claiming an elusive Indy 500 win in May.

"I have pain all the time but I just live with it," said Kanaan, who has also competed in the Hawaii Ironman triathlon. "The one that I shouldn't have raced actually, I had a concussion in Detroit, which I stayed out.

"That concussion, back in the day, the technology and all the resources we have were not as accurate. I still think I wasn't right the week after that I went to Portland."

When Kanaan breaks the record on Sunday it will be with IndyCar's current Ironman Jimmy Vasser, who owns the team the charismatic Brazilian drives for, looking on from the pit wall.

Vasser's streak started in 1993 and ran 14 years through to the 2006 season-opening race in Long Beach.

"It's a great honor to have Tony do it," Vasser said. "He's the right guy.

"These are consecutive starts. It just means primarily you're able to keep a job for that many years, which is hard to do. That's a tough feat in itself."