Tony Kanaan Loses Longtime Sponsor 7-Eleven
IndyCar sources reported today that Andretti Autosport's Tony Kanaan may be a free agent in 2011.
Kanaan's longtime sponsor 7-Eleven is ending its association with the IZOD IndyCar Series next year which could result in the popular driver losing his ride.
With three years remaining on his contract with Andretti Autosport, at an estimated salary of $3 million per year, it is unlikely that teamowner Michael Andretti can pay Kanaan under the contract with securing a primary sponsor.
Kanaan, who has been driving for Andretti since 2003 and just re-signed with the team in 2008, has won 14 races for his teamowner including this season's race at Iowa Speedway. Sources that Kanaan was told of his lost sponsorship over the weekend at Homestead-Miami Speedway. Since then, he has not released a statement.
Andretti Autosport Senior VP and Chief Marketing Officer John Lopes has confirmed the loss of 7-Eleven as a primary sponsor, although the convenience store chain will remain with the team as a secondary sponsor on the No. 7 Andretti Autosport car driven by Danica Patrick.
After thanking 7-Eleven for several years of support, Lopes said the following about the team's veteran: "Our hope is to have Tony Kanaan and the 11 car as part of our IZOD IndyCar Series lineup again in 2011 and we are currently working very hard to find the necessary sponsorship to make that a reality. In the meantime and although he remains under contact with [the team], we have given Tony and his management the permission to talk with other IndyCar team owners to explore what other alternatives might be available at this time."
Dan Wheldon, Justin Wilson, Graham Rahal and Ryan Briscoe are also possible free agents for the 2011 season although Rahal has secured sponsorshop from Service Central (and is looking for a team), while Roger Penske has said that he is "very close" to wrapping up sponsorship for Briscoe.
Robyn Lynne Schechter