MANATEE -- After a career-defining victory at the 2013 Indianapolis 500, Tony Kanaan became a hot commodity.
Consequently, Chip Ganassi sought Kanaan's services for his team.
After a slow start, Kanaan started picking up steam and ended the 2014 Verizon IndyCar Series season with a victory that netted a top-10 finish in the final driver standings.
Now Kanaan hopes to use that momentum to get off to a quick start this season when IndyCar returns March 29 with the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg.
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"We started the season not really strong," Kanaan said. "We picked up from midseason on; we had five straight podium finishes and a win in the last race. So I think we just need to start doing that a little earlier in the season."
That emphasis begins in St. Pete, which kicks off the IndyCar Series season with a street course race that loops around Tampa Bay, Al Lang Stadium and the Dali Museum.
"Being a street course, you can't really make a mistake," said Kanaan, who owns seven top-five finishes at St. Petersburg and came in second in 2005. "You have to be so precise every lap, because the walls are right there and also where the track is located. It's such a beautiful scene. Going down the back straightaway and seeing the ocean, it's something we don't do very often."
Last year, Will Power won the Firestone Grand Prix en route to the series championship. Kanaan settled for sixth place.
This year's race will feature new aero kits. Chevy and Honda have recently unveiled sneak peeks of the new aerodynamic IndyCar vehicles that will help increase speeds.
Kanaan said it's an unknown right now what his team will have, and he'll get his first look at the car when he begins testing Saturday.
"Obviously try to get the suspension right. The dampers and the springs, but those change so much that it's hard to predict," Kanaan said. "... Especially going to St. Pete, which being a street course changes from year to year. It's not a closed track, so you don't know if people do work on the street, they repave and do stuff during the work that you don't know. So it's always an unknown situation."
A native Brazilian, Kanaan said he was disappointed that the annual race in his home country is no longer being held starting this year. Back in the soccer-crazy country, Kanaan wasn't handed a soccer ball by his dad as a youth. Instead, he was given a go-kart. Kanaan said he decided at about 13 years old he was going to make a living in racing no matter what.
And in 2013, Kanaan reached the pinnacle of his career by claiming his first Indy 500 title.
"That's probably my biggest win and the one that I wanted the most," he said. "... It took me 12 years to win it. I had so much success there and had never really won the race. So it was a build-up for a long time. I don't think I can describe the emotions. But it's just the way I try to explain to people, it's like when you have a dream and that dream finally came true and (you) wanted it so bad. That's probably the way that I felt."
From there, he switched from KV Racing Technology to Chip Ganassi Racing for the 2014 season. Now he'll look to get back to contending for the Verizon IndyCar Series championship in 2015, something he won once, back in 2004.
"It just showed me how to get it done," Kanaan said. "... Consistency is the key. It's not just about winning races. There were years I won more races than the guy that won the championship, but I had a couple DNF's (Did Not Finish) that cost me that. I think winning a championship is really rewarding, because it actually proves you are good at every track."