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May 21, 2014 - 07:05 AM
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Defending Indy 500 Champ Kanaan Takes Maiden Run On Hurricane Harbor's WahooRace
Posted by: newsla on May 21, 2014 - 07:03 AM
IndyCar News
Defending Indy 500 Champ Kanaan Takes Maiden Run On Hurricane Harbor's Wahoo Racer


Verizon IndyCar Series driver Tony Kanaan made a huge splash last year when he finally captured the elusive Indianapolis 500 crown and on Tuesday he made yet another historic one in racing.

 

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Kanaan was the special guest/racing ringer brought in compliments of Texas Motor Speedway to take part in the inaugural race on Wahoo Racer, the world's largest multi-lane water slide of its kind that was officially unveiled as the newest water attraction at Hurricane Harbor in Arlington, Texas.

The slide, which officially opens to the public this Memorial Day weekend, played host to the "Wahoo Racer 500" as Kanaan faced off against Six Flags Over Texas Park President Steve Martindale, Arlington City Manager Trey Yelverton, Arlington Police Chief Will Johnson, Experience Arlington President Ronnie Price and Arlington Assistant Fire Chief David Carroll in the historic first ride.

"It's really like being in a race," Kanaan said of the Wahoo Racer. "It's a tunnel and you think it's going to be really dark and it wasn't. It was a lot of corners and you try to optimize your corner speed and your straightaway speed. You never knew where it was going to end. I was holding on to the mat the whole time and it was actually quite interesting. It was very similar to racing."

Kanaan, however, didn't have the horsepower or magic that propelled him to victory in the 2013 Indianapolis 500 and watched as Yelverton recorded the most significant victory of his brief racing career. Kanaan, who acknowledged that his muscular 150-pound frame needed "a lot more mass" to gain that much-needed speed through the corners of the slide and down the final straightaway, was gracious in the loss as he showed Yelverton how to properly celebrate in Victory Lane, whether it be Texas Motor Speedway or Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

With their fellow competitors and Warner Brothers characters Bugs Bunny and Yosemite Sam joining them in a mock Victory Lane, Kanaan presented Yelverton with the traditional Charlie 1 Horse cowboy hat, six shooters but of the water pistol variety and the Wahoo Racer 500 trophy that was a smaller, novel imitation of the Firestone 600 trophy presented at Texas Motor Speedway.

The celebration culminated with Kanaan showing him the Indy tradition of drinking the post-victory milk and Yelverton responded by pouring it over his head like a true 500 champ and then spraying it around as VIP guests, including Arlington Mayor Robert Cluck, and specially invited fans at the private event looked on.

"It (Wahoo Racer 500 trophy) will be in my office here in Arlington right next to some other really cool stuff," Yelverton said. "It was so much fun. I'm glad he (Kanaan) was willing to come out here and celebrate this ride opening. I'm a big racing fan and to see someone of Tony's caliber come out and enjoy this celebration today was great fun."

For Kanaan - who also got to experience the thrill of Hurricane Harbor's Mega Wedgie water slide as a warm-up - the disappointment of not winning the Wahoo Racer 500 only serves as further motivation as he prepares for Sunday's Indianapolis 500 set for 11 a.m. CT on ABC.

"I'm ready to go beat out all the other guys because I got beat pretty bad," Kanaan said. "The best way to overcome a loss is with a win so that's what we are going to do."

Kanaan, who starts 16th in the No. 10 Target Chevrolet for Sunday's Indianapolis 500, looks to become the first driver since Team Penske driver Helio Castroneves in 2002 to repeat as the Indianapolis 500 champion. Last year, he finally broke through for his first victory in the "Greatest Spectacle In Racing" after tallying five top-five finishes and several near-misses in his first 11 attempts.

Last year, Kanaan earned his Indianapolis 500 crown with the diminutive KV Racing Technology organization. This year, he makes the shift to one of the Verizon IndyCar Series' powerhouse organizations in Target Chip Ganassi Racing - winners of three of the previous six Indianapolis 500s. Racing with an organization that has such a stronghold on the Borg-Warner Trophy comes with pressure and not all of it bad.

"It adds pressure to the game for sure," Kanaan said. "Obviously the Target Chip Ganassi boys want to win. We did not qualify well but the team is putting in all the effort in the race. I have a little bit of extra pressure because of that but it is a good pressure to have. The team is very capable of winning and has proved that. We are going to go for it."

Kanaan also is ready to return to Texas Motor Speedway on Saturday, June 7, for the Firestone 600, a track where the Brazilian has been strong throughout his career. In 14 career starts, he owns a victory (2004) and ranks second all-time among INDYCAR drivers for top-10 finishes (11), top-five finishes (8) and average career finish (5.71). He finished third in last year's Firestone 550, his best performance since finishing runner-up in 2007.

For Kanaan, the Firestone 600, which was extended 20 laps/50 kilometers this year, and racing under the lights at Texas Motor Speedway remains an annual highlight on the Verizon IndyCar Series schedule.

"Me and Texas (Motor Speedway) we have a great relationship," Kanaan said with a smile. "It's my highest average as far as podium finishes in all the race tracks that we go. I don't know what it is, but I really like the track. I race really well here so I'm excited. I cannot wait to come back. It's always a great event and I'm excited to see Big Hoss TV. That thing is unbelievable!"

Kanaan and the stars from the Verizon IndyCar Series return to Texas Motor Speedway for the "Original Nighttime IndyCar Race" - the Firestone 600 - on Saturday, June 7.

Texas Motor Speedway is offering the "Family 4-Pack" special, four Firestone 600 race tickets, four hot dogs and four Coca-Cola products for $99. Tickets for the Firestone 600 Verizon IndyCar Series race are available by contacting the Texas Motor Speedway ticket office at (817) 215-8500

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