INDIANAPOLIS (AP) – Tony Kanaan finds it laughable when people start to talk about his bad luck in the Indianapolis 500.

The fun-loving Brazilian is probably the best active IndyCar driver never to have won the sport’s biggest event. Still, he can’t bring himself to think of either his close calls or his failures here as some kind of jinx.

“I’ve led (the race) every time I’ve been here, something nobody else has (done), and I haven’t started worse than sixth,” Kanaan said last week while relaxing before practice in the Andretti Green Racing garage. “You can’t say this place is bad luck for me. I just haven’t nailed it yet.”

In Kanaan’s first seven tries on the famed 2.5-mile Brickyard oval, the annual prerace favorite has five finishes of 12th or better, including third in 2003, second in 2004, eighth in 2005 and fifth in 2006.

“Because it’s Indianapolis, people make a big deal about it,” he said. “I don’t think I have bad luck here. I just think I haven’t had the luck to win. But I’ve been fortunate with what I have done. It’s hard to win a race and even harder to pick the race that you want to win.

“I don’t think this place owes me anything and I’ve just got to keep trying.”

But last year’s 29th-place finish may have been the toughest so far for Kanaan to swallow.

He went from leading the race to crashing out of it just past the halfway point when teammate Marco Andretti crowded him in a turn. Kanaan brushed the wall and then collided with Sarah Fisher.

After the race, a frustrated Kanaan called the move by Andretti, the son of team co-owner Michael Andretti, “stupid.”

But the hard feelings didn’t last very long for Kanaan, acknowledged by younger teammates Andretti, Danica Patrick and Hideki Mutoh as the team leader.

“We still have different opinions, I think, about what happened,” Kanaan said. “But that’s good because we both have different personalities and see it in different ways. But that did not effect us as teammates. It did not effect us as friends. We still hang around and still have fun.

“Nobody really remembers what happened between me and Marco. They remember that Scott Dixon won the race. You have to move on and move forward.”

The 22-year-old Andretti, 12 years younger than his teammate, agreed.

“Tony and I are fine,” he said. “Things happen on the track, but TK is the leader of this team. He has everybody’s respect.”

Kanaan doesn’t mind being the one that his teammates look up to.

“I am the oldest guy, by far,” he said. “Everybody relies a lot on me. They, being a young crowd, they do have a tendency to lose their patience a lot quicker than I do.

“I’m not talking about car setup, because they are very capable of doing everything,” Kanaan added. “But when I kind of struggle, it kind of falls down to everybody else. That’s why I’ve got to keep my mind straight all the time. I’m fully aware of the responsibility that I have on this team. So I can’t really show sometimes a lot of the emotions that I want to show.”

Kanaan, who will start sixth on Sunday, has spent almost as much time this month shaking down his teammates’ cars as he has in trying to get his own up to speed after a slow start for AGR at Indy.

“We did struggle the first week with a car which we still have no idea why it was slow,” Kanaan said. “I had good support from my team to believe in me and not just believe that the driver was just being a whiner and crying about having a slow car. We turned the situation around.”

And Kanaan sees a possible silver lining in those early struggles.

“It has been the most difficult month I’ve had here, as far as trying to set up a car and get the car right for the race,” he noted. “So that might be the secret. I had such easy months in the last seven (years) and everybody picked me as a favorite all the time – ‘Oh man, he’s so strong.’

“This time, we’re under the radar. People talk about me just because of my record here, but I don’t think if I was to pick somebody to win this race right now as a fan, I would not pick Tony Kanaan.”

Kanaan grinned and added, “But I’m happy. We still don’t have the fastest car, but I have a very consistent car. And I think consistency is going to play a bigger role than speed in this race.”

But what if Kanaan never does win Indy?

“It’s not going to be the end of my life if I don’t win this race,” he said. “I won’t be a frustrated driver if I don’t win this thing because I’m fulfilled with my dream of being a race car driver. That’s checked on my box.

“(Winning Indy) has been one of my goals and I’m well aware that it could happen and I’m well aware that it could not. I’m not going to make this a curse or a problem that I’m going to live with the rest of my life.”

Besides, Kanaan believes that he’s still got plenty of time to win this race.

“It took Johnny Rutherford 11 tries (to win) here,” he said, referring to the three-time Indy winner. “I’m on my eighth. I told him the other day, ‘I guess I have five to go.’ “

AP-ES-05-20-09 1345EDT


Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.