Tony Kanaan displays on his racing profession forward of his Indy 500 finale

The 107th round of the Indianapolis 500 will be both special and unforgettable for Tony Kanaan. t only will it be his 22nd 500cc, it will also be the final race of his career.

At 48, Canaan never considered when his career would see the checkered flag. For a quarter of a century, since his NTT IndyCar Series debut in 1998, he has been driven by a love of the sport and the thrill of competition.

"I love what I do," Kanaan told M&F. "I never said I wanted to race to be rich or famous. I just love it, I love what I do and if I can still do it why not? Do I have to prove something? . There's nothing left to prove. Retirement will be a big adjustment because I'm not the same as I was 30 years ago. I now have four children, I'm married and I don't know how else to live my life.”

To be able to leave a professional sport on your own terms while being celebrated is a privilege few get to enjoy. Ahead of his final Indy 500 this Sunday at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, TK shared his insights into how he's been able to compete at such a high level for so long. He also shared what he's looking forward to in retirement and his advice for the next generation.

Tony Kanaan

Tony Kanaan continues to train for dominance on the track

I've always tried to learn as much as possible. Of course, not everything I've done has been beneficial, but I try not to follow trends. I try to follow people who have the same drive as me. It's about knowing your body and what works for you because your diet won't work for me and vice versa. I can't point out one thing, but one thing I've always had on my mind is to wake up and do something.

If you are a professional athlete you will need to be more specific as you will need to work on your neck and shoulders. I've found that if you have good guidance and a good trainer, you don't have to do the traditional things. For example, before the neck machines came along, I would lie on my side in front of the TV and hold my neck up for 30 minutes at a time. This is a workout because you're holding your neck and trying to resist gravity. That was years ago, but still today: If I'm in a hotel for four to five days and don't have the necessary tools, I do it in a hotel bed. I've found over the years that you do what you enjoy because anything you force yourself to do isn't something you want to do and eventually you'll give up. I also worked a lot on my head. The main purpose of my exercise routine is to calm my mind. I'm trying to educate myself about what I need and what my goals are to get fit to drive the race car. then self-pleasure—like wanting to look good—and then finding workouts that I enjoy. I wake up at 4:30 every day and go to work out. Am I having fun? . But if I don't start doing that, one day I'll have lost training.

Always think of something else, someone to beat. I have my teammates. [Alexander] Rossi trains with me at the gym every day and you want someone to help you raise your bar and you help raise the bar. It's not a competition, but we all need challenges. When things get too easy, it's human nature to get lazy and not put in the effort needed to get something done. My training program has always focused on my driving. I would focus on who I had to beat or a race I had to win. I also take great pride in finishing a race and I see some of my competitors completely exhausted while I'm ready to race another. This is a reward and an advantage. I'm 48 and I've decided to race my last race this year, but could I race for another 10 years? Definitely five. You don't see people in professional sports making it to their late 40s. This is not usual.


I've had a few injuries. I had three concussions resulting from serious accidents. I broke my arm twice. I broke it for the first time in Detroit in 2000. I crashed into a manhole on the track. I hit it, the car drove off and I hit the wall. The wheel came in and broke my left arm in two places. My elbow hit my ribs and I broke seven of them, got a concussion and passed out. A day later I woke up in the hospital with two plates and 17 screws in my arm. The first thing I asked the doctor was when I can drive again. He said in about four months. I was back in four weeks.

In 2003 I broke the wrist of the same arm. It was three weeks before the Indy 500. I broke my wrist on a Saturday, flew back to Indy on Sunday and had surgery on Monday. I missed one of the practice sessions and started with a carbon stay and finished third. It's not bragging and I don't recommend people to do it, but that's just my attitude. We have the best doctors in IndyCar and they wouldn't let me drive if it wasn't safe. I remember there was a lot of uproar at the time because anyone who wanted to come back from an injury quickly would harass my doctors all the time. You attribute faster recovery to good thinking, great medical people around you, risk taking, and a body so healthy that recovery is much faster.

If you are fit, you recover faster. When you're strong, you don't hurt yourself that much in a race car. Focus on the big things, not just getting strong - flexibility and training smart. If you are not feeling well or are in pain that you think is compromising, don't do it. If I feel a tug or something in my leg I won't run, I'll go for a swim and see if it feels better. Trying to prevent injury outside of the car is one thing. Once inside, we cannot prevent something from happening.

Tony Kanaan trail running outdoorsDonald Miralle

Be receptive to advancement

Just like working out, you have to keep changing because you get tired of the same thing. If you do bicep exercises every day, you'll eventually lose them. I like feeling the pain and I've changed my routine every quarter. The cycling and running remain the same, but I will change the way I do my exercises, intervals, and short and long rides. I have to adapt constantly because I need that motivation. If it's the same thing over and over again, my mind won't let me do it with the same intensity. I'm always looking for new things and I challenge my coaches what we could do differently. I try to challenge every new theory or workout, the new workout drinks and methods.


My father passed away on a Thursday evening and I had to race that weekend. In the end I won this race. That was a big thing for me. Thank god I never suffered from anxiety or depression. I think that's why I can constantly challenge myself. Like normal people, I went through a difficult divorce a long time ago. I still had to race and I went through some of those races the night before without being able to sleep due to arguments and worrying about other life issues. I am now happily married and have been for 15 years.

Although people see us as very strong and successful, we have the same problems as everyone else. The difference is that I can't wake up and tell my boss that I think I can't race today because I'm not feeling well. That's a good thing and a bad thing for me because I've dedicated my life to my career all the time. w that I have a big family and a wife, it's something she keeps me pretty much in check about. You can become selfish even if you don't want to. Everything revolves around you and everything is for you, because you are the center of attention. We're all human, so you can get used to it and it becomes normal. The biggest challenge has always been controlling myself when I'm being overly selfish, which I am. I'm extremely selfish because I'm the product of my career and I've worked really hard to balance that. That's why I go to therapy twice a week.

Tony Kanaan performs dipsTony Kanaan

Prepare for the next chapter

IndyCar's retirement is one thing. I'm not fully retired. I still drive in two different series - one in Brazil and one here. The IndyCar chapter of my life is over. I'm really excited about this new project where I'm working with Arrow McLaren to be part of the team and to help my teammates - I think I can contribute a lot with my experience on the technical side. I still race and enjoy things outside of the car. A lot of the pressure is off me and it's a new pressure. I never thought I would be outside of driving, which was naïve of me because it always comes to an end.

Since joining this team I have met so many amazing people. I've been here a long time and know a lot of people. Arrow McLaren is still a fairly new team. We just got on really well with the people, the way we work, the mentality and we have so many things in common. It's no different than a relationship. You have to have things in common to keep in touch or to make a friendship. I look forward to being part of the team. They make me feel like I'm part of the team outside of the car too. At this point my focus is on getting them a win in the 500m. That's my ultimate goal as an IndyCar driver. After that, simply contribute to the success of the team.

Never stop chasing, even after the race is over

I have a 15 year old who has a lot of questions now. When I lost my father, I was eight years old and I got it in my head that I wanted to be a racing driver. matter how difficult it was, that's what I wanted to do. My number one piece of advice is when you wake up, ask yourself how badly you really want it. The easiest way is to give up or not start. Anyone can do that. You already have the answer 'no', if you don't ask or follow it, the 'no' is already there. Decide yes.

Follow Tony Kanaan on Instagram @tkanaan

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