Feeling lucky, Tony?

DEAN MCNULTY, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 10:32 AM ET

Tony Kanaan is no stranger to the temporary street course that will roar to life this morning for the first practice of the Honda Indy Toronto weekend.

But he has been a stranger in the Indy Racing League's winner's circle, where the veteran driver has but a single win in almost two seasons of racing.

It's not like he forgot how to drive fast. The 34-year-old native of Salvador, Brazil, however, has become the poster child for the old axiom that "if it were not for bad luck, he'd have no luck at all" this season.

Take May's Indianapolis 500, for example. Coming into the race, Kanaan was chasing a record of nine consecutive races where he was in the lead and was being tabbed as one of the favourites to win "the greatest spectacle in racing."

He was well on his way when, just before the halfway mark, his car turned violently into the wall in Turn 3 coming to rest in Turn 4.

It was as if a mysterious celestial hand had come down and slapped the green, red and white 7-Eleven sponsored car sideways.

Even Kanaan was stumped as to the cause of the crash.

"I don't know," he said. "Something broke in the middle of the straightaway. I hit head-on on the wall. I went for a wild ride. I rested my head on the headrest and closed my eyes. I knew it was going to be a big one. I was pretty much beat up."

Two races later, at Iowa Speedway last month, Kanaan looked as if he was on his way to his first win of 2009 when his No. 11 Honda-powered Dallara got sideways, crashing again into the track's Safer barrier.

And again, Kanaan couldn't come up with a reasonable explanation as to why it happened.

"I've crashed in that corner the last three years. It just stepped out on me," he said. "I can't blame anything. I think it was a combination of the cold tires and me pushing a little too hard. Maybe it was my mistake. It's been quite a different year for me, so I guess I have a lot of catching up to do."

Well, he's hoping the catching-up business finally takes hold Sunday when his Andretti-Green Racing team attempts to recapture the good luck that had previously been in Kanaan's corner.

This is the same Tony Kanaan, after all, who won the IndyCar championship in 2004 and has had at least one victory every season he's been part of the IRL.

In fact, in 2007, Kanaan led the league with five wins. So forgive him if he's not too concerned about his current run of bad luck.

As he was getting his first look at the Exhibition Place track in seven seasons yesterday, Kanaan smiled and admitted it was like greeting an old friend.

"It was like I was never away," he said. "I was walking in (yesterday) and a couple of guys I knew when I raced here seven years ago shouted: 'Hello, Tony' to me in Portuguese."

It is that kind of familiarity that Kanaan is counting on to put him and his team back in the win column.

WON'T BE EASY

But he knows it's not going to be easy.

"There are so many good drivers at the top in the IRL," Kanaan said. "And drivers like Dario (Franchitti), Helio (Castroneves) and Danica (Patrick) all have raced here before, too. So, it's not like I've got an advantage."

There is one thing, though, that he wished he had more time do to while in Toronto.

"I'd like to go out in the Portuguese community," Kanaan said. "But there's just not enough time. I know there will be thousands from the community here cheering me on."

That, he said, for sure, should help change his luck for the better.


Photos