Kanaan high on 'wow' factor

DEREK VAN DIEST, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 10:47 AM ET

EDMONTON -- It was an incident Tony Kanaan has since put behind him.

However, returning to the track where fire broke out in his cockpit last year brought back frightful memories for the Team 7-Eleven driver.

“I said that I wanted to have a different kind of a shower this year,” Kanaan said on Thursday.

“I want to have a champaign shower this year.

“Obviously it’s something people talk about coming back here. It was probably one of the scariest moments of my career, but it’s nothing against Edmonton, it just happened.”

Last year Kanaan’s race came to a premature end when an ethanol filling hose spewed fuel on his car during a pit stop.

The car immediately caught fire, which prompted the Brazilian to try and scramble out of his car.

His pit crew, along with a neighbouring crew, quickly raced over to douse the flames before Kanaan was seriously injured.

“We always look back on incidents like that to find out what really happened,” Kanaan said.

“I’ve been around a long time and between the crashes and some accidents that have happened, you always go ‘Wow, that was close.’

“Thank God our equipment is very safe, the driver’s suit and the helmet did its job and I just burnt a tiny bit of my hand and my face. I’m looking to turn things around this year, and am hoping to have a good weekend here.”

Kanaan’s incident brought about changes in procedures during pit stops for his team.

“That’s how — even in the series itself — we improve,” Kanaan said.

“Unfortunately, things like that happen. It was a malfunction in the equipment, which can happen any time. We break cars. Engines break. That’s the way it is, but we’ve definitely been very careful ever since.

“Since then we haven’t had a problem.”

Despite the incident, Kanaan had no issues climbing back into his car. If anything, the response by the support staff in the pits gives him an added sense of security heading into this year’s event.

“As a driver, it makes me more comfortable knowing that people will respond quickly to whatever happens,” Kanaan said.

“As a driver, you try not to think about the bad things that can happen to you. But knowing that all the mechanics and people in pit lane were able to save me, makes me more comfortable.”

The Edmonton event was one of five races Kanaan was unable to complete last season.

A disappointing season by his standards, he went on to place sixth in the drivers’ standing, failing to earn a victory on the circuit for the first time since 2003.

This year, Kanaan heads in to Edmonton seventh in the drivers’ standings, 104 points behind leader Will Power.

He does have a victory, however, claiming the checkered flag at Iowa Speedway in June. He also has four top-five finishes and eight top-20 placings on the year.

Kanaan will take to the track for his first practice session on Friday.

“This year has been a lot better for me,” he said. “A lot of things have changed from last year. We have just the one team owner this year, we made a few changes in the personnel and we added Ryan Hunter-Reay, which is a big asset for us.

“It wasn’t only one thing, it was a combination of a lot of things that have made a difference this year. It was actually a group of people that really changed the situation around.”


Videos

Photos