Kanaan moves on to de Ferran Dragon team

By Dave Lewandowski

After eight seasons with Michael Andretti’s IZOD IndyCar Series team, Tony Kanaan is moving on to pair up with another longtime friend and racing competitor.

de Ferran Dragon Racing president Gil de Ferran announced during a news conference in Sao Paulo, Brazil, that the team has signed the 2004 IZOD IndyCar Series champion to compete in the 2011 season – its third in the series.

Kanaan, who turns 36 on Dec. 31, will drive the No. 2 car with the sponsorship package to be announced in the new year. De Ferran said a second car on the grid in 2011 is possible if sponsorship can be secured.

“This is a great signing and a major coup for de Ferran Dragon Racing,” said de Ferran, the 2003 Indianapolis 500 and two-time CART champion. “He is a proven champion and brings with him a great record of success on the track. Tony has consistently placed at the sharp end of the field for more than a decade and shows no signs of letting up. I am sure his contribution to the team, both in terms of speed and experience, will be invaluable to our development and future success.

“Tony’s presence is also a significant vote of confidence for our young and developing team with big ambitions. I have no doubt that he’ll not only bring his speed and determination, but will help us being a major force in the series for years to come.”

Kanaan made his first start in the series in the 2002 Indianapolis 500. He joined Andretti Green Racing for the full 2003 season, providing the team its first pole start and victory in its second race. In 2004, Kanaan set an unrivaled record by became the first driver in major auto racing history to complete every lap of every race for an entire season on his way to winning the series title.

Kanaan has finished in the top six of the championship standings in each of his eight full seasons in the IZOD IndyCar Series. This past season, he recorded seven top-five finishes (including his 14th series victory, at Iowa Speedway) and 13 top 10s in 17 races.

“I don’t want to call Gil Santa, but this is really a great Christmas present for me,” said Kanaan, a native of Salvador de Bahia, Brazil. “I am really excited to be working with de Ferran Dragon Racing ”I have a great deal of respect for (team co-owners) Steve Luczo, Jay Penske and, of course, Gil, who I have known for many years both as a driver and now as a team owner. I know that the owners have a passion for the sport and a dream of being among the best in the series and will assemble all the right skills to turn this team into something really special.

“There is no doubt we have a lot work in front of us, but the energy I’ve felt from this team for becoming a top player and winning convinced me that this is a team where I can truly contribute and make a difference through my years of experience. One thing is for sure, 2011 is going to be a great journey for us all.

“Every year I say the competition can’t be getting tougher, but it does. Where are we right now? It’s tough to say, but I’ve always been competitive and our goal is always to win races.”

Kanaan tested in the No. 2 car at Sebring International in mid-November to provide feedback on development items. He and team members liked what they saw in each other.

“It went really well and I saw everything I wanted in a race team,” Kanaan said. “Since then, we were working on the details.”

Raphael Matos, the 2008 Firestone Indy Lights champion, competed in the No. 2 entry the past two seasons (12 top-10 finishes in 34 races). He had a best finish of fourth at the opener in Brazil and at Watkins Glen in 2010.

source http://www.indycar.com

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