DETROIT (AP) - Tony Kanaan acknowledged Jimmy Vasser and Kevin Kalkhoven in his speech. Vasser said Kanaan was a good friend.
If there are any lingering issues between the Indianapolis 500 winner and his former team, everyone sure did a good job of masking those problems when they received their "Baby Borg" trophies on Wednesday night at the Automotive News World Congress.
The Baby Borgs are smaller replicas of the Indy 500's Borg-Warner Trophy. Kanaan won the race in May, finally breaking through in his 12th start at the Brickyard. He later left KV Racing and joined Chip Ganassi Racing.
"Would we like to be together? Eventually yes. I had to be a little bit selfish in my choices at the time," Kanaan said. "It was a great opportunity. I think Jimmy, as an owner, probably would like me to be with him. But as a race car driver, I think he understood."
KV Racing rescued Kanaan shortly before the 2011 season when he didn't have a ride. Now Kanaan has left, but the driver insisted there are no hard feelings between him and owners Vasser and Kalkhoven.
"I think we both benefited a lot with the win. The team was struggling for a sponsorship, I was struggling to keep a job because of sponsorship," Kanaan said shortly after receiving his trophy. "I got a great job, they signed a multiyear deal with a sponsor, so everybody's happy."
Vasser's take on the situation?
"Tony's a dear friend of the team and always will be. We share this together," he said while holding his trophy.
Kanaan's 6-year-old son Leo was at the ceremony, and was the recipient of his own trophy- an even smaller replica of the one his father won. That came as a surprise to both Tony and young Leo, who moved to Brazil with his mother after his parents divorced in 2009. Tony lives in Florida.
In his speech during the ceremony, Kanaan told a story about a conversation he'd had with Leo prior to his victory at Indy.
"I said, `All right, I'm going to win one for you, and it's going to be the big one,'" Kanaan recalled. "We did it this year, so thanks Leo, for that."
Of course, there was still the matter of finding Leo a trophy.
"When I did that, in the heat of the moment, I promised him the Borg-Warner Trophy, which he thought was this one," Kanaan said, referring to the giant Indy 500 trophy only a few feet from where he was speaking. "I had a hard time explaining to him that it was not going to be that, but he understood because that would not fit in the house, and he could not take that to Brazil."
So Kanaan's plan was to give his Baby Borg to his son. Then it was revealed that there was an extra trophy waiting for Leo.
"I actually tried to order an extra, to give it to him. And they said, `No, I'm so sorry. We don't do those kinds of things,'" Kanaan said afterward. "So they fooled me."
Kanaan will drive the prestigious No. 10 car for Ganassi, which was vacated when Dario Franchitti retired late last year following a harrowing crash. KV Racing signed Sebastien Bourdais to replace Kanaan and landed a two-year sponsorship deal with Mistic Electronic Cigarettes.
In his speech during the trophy ceremony, Vasser- himself a former driver- thanked Kanaan for a job well done at Indy. Kanaan mentioned Kalkhoven and Vasser in his speech.
"Kevin, you have a history in motor racing, your big passion, and I can't thank you enough for this opportunity, when people thought it was over for me," Kanaan said. "Jimmy, what can I say? We banged wheels in the past, we've been good friends for more than 15 years- that means we're getting really old."
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