Tony Kanaan is a Brazilian racing driver of Lebanese descent. After starting racing in Brazil he moved to Italy. From there he went to America winning the Indy Lights Championship in 1997. He graduated to Champ cars and won the title in 2004 for Andretti Green.
Antoine Rizkallah Kanaan Filho is a Brazilian racing driver of Lebanese descent from Salvador, Brazil.
When he was just 13, his father died after a long battle with cancer. He promised his father that he would continue to race, and as soon as he was old enough, he left school and went to work in a kart factory, earning the use of a kart instead of being paid. He went on to win six Brazilian karting championships.
He graduated to single seaters and after two successful seasons in the Brazilian Formula Ford and Formula Chevrolet Championships, Tony went to Europe to build his career.
So, in 1991, he moved to Italy, living in the race car shop to make his limited funds go further. After a partial season in the Formula Opel Euroseries , Tony contested the Italian Formula Alfa Boxer Championship, winning the title. He graduated to Italian Formula 3 and posted nine podium finishes.
In 1996 he travelled to the United States and joined Tasman Motorsports to contest the PPG-Firestone Indy Lights Championship.
With cursory English skills, Tony made an impressive debut, winning two races (Detroit and Laguna Seca), the Sea Doo/Ski Doo Pole Award, the Rookie of the Year title and finished runner up in the championship.
In 1997, Tony stayed in Indy Lights to gain more experience, and went one better, winning the PPG-Firestone Indy Lights Championship and adding two more race victories to his list of triumphs (Detroit and Trois-Rivieres).
In 1998, he moved up to the FedEx CART Championship Race Series, surprising everyone by scoring PPG Cup points in 11 of 19 starts, the most for any rookie since 1993. He also scored two podium finishes and finished ninth in the ranking, the highest placed Brazilian and Rookie of the Year.
In 1999 he finished 11th in points with a victory at the U.S. 500 and nine other top 10 finishes: Montegi (Japan), Rio de Janeiro (Brasil), Madison (Ill), Elkhart Lake (Wis), Detroit, Vancouver, Houston, Surfers Paradise (Australia),and Fontana (Calif.) Was also a pole sitter at Long Beach, California.
In 2000 he left Forsythe Championship Racing (formally Tasman Motorsports), and joined Nunn Racing to drive a Mercedes-Benz Reynard.
Not one of his best years, he finished the season in 19th place, though he wa the best of the Mercedes powered drivers. He missed four races after an accident during qualifying for the Detroit Grand Prix, fracturing his left forearm and breaking four ribs.
He finished the 2001 CART Championship in 9th place and the 2002 series in 12th place.
After a better year in 2003 season he ended up in 4th place on 476 points, only 30 points behind the champion Scott Dixon.
At the end of the year he renewed his contract with Andretti Green for another 5 years and said: "I think we still have a lot to conquer in the years we have ahead of us. I have a lot to give to Honda and a tittle to Andretti Green. I will fight for those things, as I fought this past year." Here comes the 2004 season
He delivered on that promis the following year by taking the title in 2004 for Andretti Green Racing. He completed every lap raced that year, finishing in the top 5 in all but the season-opener.
In 2005 he placed second in the championship to his teammate Dan Wheldon. In September 2005 he tested a Formula 1 car with the BAR-Honda Team at Jerez as a reward for his 2004 IRL championship in a Honda powered car.
In 2006 he continued to drive in IRL for Andretti Green.
Throughout his racing career, Kanaan has worked with performance scientist and consultant Dr. Jacques Dallaire, on physical and mental testing and to improve conditioning.
Kanaan is good friend of Brazilian Formula One driver Rubens Barrichello, and they exchanged helmets for the events in May 28, 2006. Barrichello wore Kanaan's helmet livery during the Monaco GP and Kanaan wore Rubens's one during the Indy 500.