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INDY Kanaan to race for KV Racing in 2011

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March 21, 2011

Tony Kanaan is back in IndyCar.

The 2004 series champion will drive the No. 82 KV Racing Technology-Lotus in 2011. The deal, announced Monday, ends Kanaan’s quest to find a new home after splitting with Andretti Autosport last fall.

Kanaan will join E.J. Viso and Takuma Sato in KV Racing Technology-Lotus� three-car lineup when the 2011 season begins in St. Petersburg this weekend.

“I’ve spent the last six months looking for sponsorship and not thinking about racing, so I missed all the pre-season testing, but I really can’t complain,� Kanaan said.

This is Kanaan’s second team since leaving Andretti last fall after 7-Eleven declined to continue its sponsorship of his No. 11 car.

The 36-year-old Brazilian had signed on to drive for de Ferran Dragon Racing, but he didn’t secure enough corporate backing to make it to the opener.

That won’t be an issue now after insurance company GEICO agreed to serve as the primary sponsor on the No. 82 for KV Racing Technology-Lotus, which is co-owned by former open-wheel star Jimmy Vassar.
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Kanaan said he reached out to Vassar after his deal with de Ferran fell through. The two initially talked last fall but Kanaan said the timing wasn’t right.

It is now.

“Jimmy and I go back a long way, we were rivals during the CART days, but more than that, we have always been good friends, which helped a lot with our negotiations,� Kanaan said.

The deal gives KV Racing Technology one of the series� top drivers to run alongside Sato, who finished 21st in the points last season during his first year in IndyCar, and the 25-year-old Viso, who was 17th in the points race in 2010.

“Tony’s knowledge and experience will be extremely valuable to our team,� said Vassar.

The affable Kanaan has been one of IndyCar’s most popular and successful drivers over the last decade. He has 14 career IndyCar victories and 78 top-five finishes in 132 starts, all but one of them for Andretti.

Yet the business relationship between Kanaan and Andretti ended when 7-Eleven decided not to renew its deal as the primary sponsor for his iconic green Honda.

Kanaan’s new ride will also be green, and he joked it put him at ease because his son Leo “was having a hard time accepting any other color.�

The deal also gives Lotus a true heavyweight to put its brand behind as it tries to expand its footprint in IndyCar. The England-based company announced last fall it will join Honda and Chevrolet as engine manufacturers for IndyCar when the series relaunches with a new platform in 2012. Lotus will also produce aerodynamic kits for KV Racing Technology.

Lotus is well-versed in racing and has ties to the series. The company served as a sponsor for the No. 5 car driven by Sato last year, and driver Jim Clark used a Lotus chassis when he won the 1965 Indy 500 Our Dream Watch.

Lotus will provide both engine and aerodynamic kits for KV.

“We take racing seriously and we don’t just want to put a sticker on a car that we didn’t have the influence to help build,� Group Lotus CEO Dany Bahar said last fall. “We want to compete with the big guys.�

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