IndyCar veteran Tony Kanaan on his career, “what now?”


INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — IndyCar is working this month to reduce the stigma surrounding conversations about mental health, both in the racing community and beyond. The series began by bringing together a group of drivers for a wide-ranging conversation about their own mental health and how they’ve worked to manage the stresses they’ve faced as professional drivers.

Tony Kanaan will make his 21st start in the Indianapolis 500 on Sunday, the most of any driver in the field. He won the race in 2013 on his 12th attempt. The Brazilian will drive the #1 Chip Ganassi car in honor of the “Be The One” campaign, which encourages Americans to provide emotional support to veterans returning from active duty.

Below is an essay Kanaan wrote for The Associated Press on mental health:


In races, the numbers move at about the same rate as stock prices on Wall Street. But when the green flag is waved, there’s only one number that really matters, and it’s just that: number one, or uh, if we’re racing in my native Brazil. The goal is clear: finish first, pop the champagne and point your index finger skyward at the top of the podium.

Our Chip Ganassi Racing team constantly stays focused on every little detail so we can enjoy those happy moments after the last lap. It’s hard enough to describe the feeling of driving the car to victory lane, with your family and teammates waiting to celebrate. But those moments don’t come by chance, and they certainly don’t come as often as I would like.

And that’s OK. I learned to appreciate them.

After flirting with victory in my first 12 starts in “The Greatest Spectacle in Racing,” I drilled and kissed the bricks in 2013 at the Indianapolis 500. But as the hundreds of thousands of fans cheered me on at that point, I wasn’t thinking about the lead changes, our lap times, or our fuel mileage. I was thinking of my loved ones and all the ups and downs that have accompanied my journey.

Professional athletes are often held to higher standards and praised for their strength – but what isn’t shown on camera are the personal moments of adversity. Even after fulfilling my life’s mission, I was faced with the question “Now what?” It’s no secret that life goes on, and those personal and professional ups and downs go on too. I’ve learned to lean on my wife, Lauren, as someone I can be open with and who can understand what I’m going through.

I remember these realities during the most important month of the race, which coincides with Mental Health Awareness Month. I will have the honor of driving the #1 car this Memorial Day weekend under the banner of the American Legion. Working with them, I’ve met countless veterans from across the country, and I can’t help but see parallels in their stories.

Although my personal adversities pale in comparison to these resilient men and women, I see the challenges they face and understand what they are going through. They returned home after completing their own missions, asking “What happens next?” It really hit me when I learned the harsh reality that on average 17 veterans kill themselves every day. This absolutely must change.

I’m proud to say that we kicked off the “Be The One” campaign with the unveiling of my car earlier this year alongside Indiana Governor Eric Holcomb. The goal of this initiative is to change the conversation from how much we lose to how much we can save. If you could do one thing today to save a veteran, would you do it? Members of our armed forces, past and present, are our heroes. They are expected to be strong, which makes it difficult for them to ask for help. But let’s change that and be proactive ourselves. Let’s be the one to reach out. Be the one to let them know it’s okay to ask for help. We can no longer ignore this case.

What I believe to be a certainty is that no one’s personal journey is easy. No matter your situation, life will bring difficulties and moments of reflection. But what we can control and learn to appreciate is asking others for help.

Jim Cornelison will soon sing “Back Home Again in Indiana,” and I’ll once again watch the inconceivable number of fans in attendance at the Indianapolis 500. I’ll do so knowing that I’m just an individual reflecting on my own journey. , but I am not alone.

So let’s all remember to take that deep breath on this race weekend and reflect on the journey that has brought us to this very moment. And no matter what happens after the checkered flag is waved and the commotion dies down, remember to respect each individual journey, check in with those around you, and spread the word that it is okay to ask for help.


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