LONG POND — Tony Kanaan has a million reasons why he would want to win today’s Pocono IndyCar 400 Fueled by Sunoco.
As winner of the Indianapolis 500 back in May, Kanaan is the only driver in the field who can win the Fuzzy’s Triple Crown $1 million bonus.
All the Brazilian driver has to do is win today’s race and then take the season ending MAD TV 500 on Oct. 19 in Fontana, Calif., and the cash is his.
But Kanaan knows that winning at Pocono won’t be easy.
“It’s going to be difficult,” Kanaan said after qualifying fifth on Saturday, “but my boss keeps telling me all the time that’s why I get paid the big bucks.”
The big bucks for winning the Triple Crown comes from former pro golfer Fuzzy Zoeller’s vodka company. But the idea for the competition came from Pocono Raceway CEO Brandon Igdalsky.
“When the conversation started about bringing Indy cars back (to Pocono), I said if we are going to do this, we have to bring the Triple Crown back,” Igdalsky said.
The Triple Crown included the races at Indianapolis, Pocono and Ontario, Calif., from 1971 through 1980 and Indy, Pocono and Michigan from 1981 through 1989.
But when the Indy cars left Pocono after the 1989 season, the Triple Crown bonus ended.
None of that history will mean much to Kanaan once the green flag drops today just after noon. He will just be trying to figure out a way to win the race. And like he said, it’s not going to be easy.
“They don’t call it the ‘Tricky Triangle’ for nothing,” Kanaan said of the track. “It’s exciting.
“Three different corners around this track, it’s definitely tricky. You are not going to have a good car in all (the corners).”
Kanaan’s season has been a bit tricky itself.
He hasn’t won since Indianapolis, but does have top-10 finishes in the last three races.
He currently sits in fifth place in the race for the championship, 79 points behind series leader Helio Castroneves.
And for a while on Saturday, it looked like he would take the pole of top qualifier Marco Andretti, but he ran into tire problems on his second qualifying lap.
“I overcooked them,” Kanaan. “I opened my lap too quick.
“When you are running this level of downforce, you have to save your tires on the opening lap and I didn’t.”
Still, starting in the second row of the three-wide starting grid doesn’t bother Kanaan. Even with Andretti and his teammates Ryan Hunter-Reay and James Hinchcliffe in front of him, Kanaan is confident.
“I won Indy from Row 4, so I can win from Row 2 here,” he said.
The three-wide start doesn’t concern Kanaan, either.
“This straight away is longer than Indy,” Kanaan said. “It’s wide. I don’t see a problem doing it.
“But it’s definitely going to be different.”
Kanaan added that the drivers are going to have to remember that it’s a 400-mile race. It can’t be won in the first laps.
“We can’t get greedy,” he said. “We have to respect each other.”
A little respect and a little luck and Kanaan will be one step closer to $1 million.
“The Sunoco Car is pretty good, so we’re going for the Triple Crown,” he said.