McLaren Racing CEO Zak Brown hopes Tony Kanaan’s final Indianapolis 500, spent in an Arrow McLaren Chevy, isn’t the Brazilian’s first and last time as an employee of the Indiana-based outfit.
As Chip Ganassi Racing has Dario Franchitti and Team Penske has Rick Mears in advisory roles where the experience gained during their numerous IndyCar championships and Indy 500 wins is put to use to benefit their respective organizations, Brown sees Kanaan — a champion and Indy winner as well — as a perfect component to accelerate Arrow McLaren’s rise.
“I’ve known Tony a long time, and he is a champion on and off the track,” Brown told RACER. “We’re definitely exploring what type of ongoing role he could have in contributing to our team’s success. Nothing’s definitive yet, but certainly the intention is, while that may have been his last Indy 500, it wasn’t his last involvement with Arrow McLaren. And I think he very much feels the same.”
Brown, team director Gavin Ward, and Kanaan are due to discuss the various ways the Indianapolis-based ace might enrich a team that already has former IndyCar front-runner Robert Wickens working in a advisory role.
Brown believes enabling his drivers to draw on Kanaan’s experience in the manner of a Franchitti or Mears would be a major benefit, Phillip Abbott/Motorsport Images
“We don’t know yet what it might be, but if we were to do something, what are the areas that we think he can add value? What are the areas he thinks he can add value,” Brown continued. “What we agreed was to get through the month of May, because I very much wanted to just have him be a racing car driver for the month of May, and now that that May is behind us, that’s a conversation Gavin, me, and Tony will start to pick up.
“I think Dario is a big contributor to his race team’s success because when you get a champion like that, there’s so many different areas they can contribute with their experience. So whether it’s like Niki Lauda, Rick Mears at Penske, Gil de Ferran in our Formula 1 team, I’m a believer that world champion drivers with a lot of experience can help teams in a variety of ways, given their experience where they know what great looks like and they know what bad looks like. I think that’s where champion drivers can add a lot of value to a racing team.”
For Kanaan, who grew up idolizing three-time F1 world champion Ayrton Senna, the deep collection of his late countryman’s McLaren F1 cars which are used in various demonstration runs each year would be a natural draw if he is signed to an ongoing contract with the team. Brown knows any contract with Kanaan will come with seat time in the late legend’s vintage open-wheelers.
“I’ve found a commonality behind all my drivers in that,” Brown said with a laugh. “They all want to drive the toys…and if any of them think I haven’t figured it out, they don’t know me…”