Indianapolis 500 winner Tony Kanaan will not return to KV Racing next season and is finalizing a deal to join Chip Ganassi Racing, The Associated Press has learned.
Two people familiar with Kanaan’s plan said Friday that the Brazilian is nearing a signed contract with Ganassi. They spoke on condition of anonymity because Ganassi has not announced the move.
The 38-year-old Kanaan will join a lineup that includes Indy 500 winners Dario Franchitti and Scott Dixon, and Charlie Kimball. Franchitti and Dixon have combined to win six IndyCar titles, and Kanaan won it in 2004.
Kanaan repeatedly said he wanted to keep his core team at KV Racing together but expressed frustration with the economic hardships in IndyCar. KV Racing had presented him with a deal in which he did not have to bring any sponsorship money to the team — Kanaan has had to bring money with him in the past and has long felt as a veteran that he should not have to — but he rejected the offer.
Kanaan has 17 seasons in American open-wheel racing, the last 12 in IndyCar, and he is a 16-time race winner. With his contract at KV Racing expiring this year, he was looking to avoid a similar situation he faced three years ago when he lost sponsorship in December when he was with Andretti Autosport and had to put together a last-minute deal just before the 2011 season began.
Earlier this month, Kanaan visited Joe Gibbs Racing and said he had not ruled out a move to NASCAR. JGR President J.D. Gibbs said then that Kanaan had asked for a shop tour and any talks with the Brazilian were informal.
Kanaan had run in the Grand-AM race for Ganassi at Indianapolis over the summer, at the time denying it would lead to a future partnership and was just doing the team a favor.
Kanaan ended 12 years of frustration when he won the Indy 500 in May at the Brickyard, thousands of fans screaming, "TK! TK! TK!" on that long, final lap. Even with that signature win, major corporate sponsorship had appeared to dry up.