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Kanaan Could Be Favorite for IndyCar’s First Oval Race of 2017

AVONDALE, Ariz. — Two of the first three victories Tony Kanaan had in his career came at Phoenix Raceway, and when the desert oval regained its place on the Verizon IndyCar Series schedule in 2016, he had another strong performance with a fourth-place result.

But it’s been awhile since the Brazilian has visited the winner’s circle. His last win came at Auto Club Speedway in 2014.

The Chip Ganassi Racing veteran could break the drought at the mile oval, though. Statistically, Phoenix is one of his best tracks, and it’s the first oval race of the season.

“Historically, I’m pretty decent at ovals — it’s something I worked really hard at back in the Indy Lights days,” Kanaan told POPULAR SPEED in a press conference. “If you looks at my results in ‘98 and ‘99, I started dead last at every single oval, and I was told it’s probably not supposed to be my thing.

“I guess that got under my skin and I worked really hard to improve that. Whatever it is, it suits my driving style.”

Kanaan has established himself as one of the best oval racers in the field. Fourteen of his 17 career wins have come on ovals and has won half his starts at Phoenix.

“It’s always good to come back to a place that you know you do well,” he said. “We’ve won a couple of races here, so it’s a really good fitting. It’s up my alley … I love the mile ovals.”

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By John Haverlin

John Haverlin is currently studying Communication at Arizona State University. He has been a reporter at Phoenix International Raceway for three years and has written news stories for the track's official site. Born and raised in Long Island, N.Y., Haverlin has lived in Arizona the past three years.