Times are tough all over, but no industry has more talent competing for fewer positions than professional racing. Consider Tony Kanaan, who’s raced in American open wheel competition since 1997, when he was the Indy Lights Champion. In 1998, Kanaan made the jump to Champ Car, where he raced for the Tasman, Forsythe and Mo Nunn teams before making the switch to the IRL (with Mo Nunn) in 2002. In 2003, Kanaan teamed up with Andretti-Green Racing, which became Andretti Autosport in 2010. Racing for Andretti, Kanaan has won a series championship, racked up 14 race wins and accumulated 49 podium finishes. That wasn’t a good enough return on investment for his primary sponsor, 7-Eleven, who announced their withdrawal from the IndyCar series after last weekend’s Miami race.
No sponsorship translates to no ride for Kanaan, as Andretti Green can’t fund Kanaan’s salary without a primary sponsor. Kanaan is technically under contract to Andretti Green through the 2013 season, but it’s unlikely Andretti Green would block another team from picking up Kanaan if they had the finances. Kanaan joins other top tier IndyCar drivers in looking for a ride for 2011, including Dan Wheldon, Justin Wilson and potentially Ryan Briscoe. Only Graham Rahal, who picked up two years worth of sponsorship from Service Central, is in a good position to land a full time ride in next year’s IndyCar series.