Indy 500 winner Tony Kanaan and his family officially made Indianapolis their home last year.
With a new baby girl in the mix, life for the Kanaans has shown no signs of slowing down anytime soon. As the city gears up for the 103rd running of the Indianapolis 500 on May 26, we sat down with Tony to hear about life as a world-class athlete and father of four.
TJ: You have a 7-month-old, Nina, the first girl in the family. How’s that going?
TK: It’s amazing. Having a girl was a nice surprise — we didn’t find out until the day she was born. Every time we’ve had a kid, I only prayed for him or her to be healthy; I never cared about the sex of the baby. But after having three boys, she’s going to be spoiled for sure.
TJ: How do you balance being a parent and a professional athlete?
TK: My profession takes priority right now, but I don’t have many years left, so we’ll be able to enjoy each other more soon. I try hard to balance everything. I travel quite a bit, but I try to be as present as possible when I’m home. We have a pretty good routine.
TJ: You have another son in Brazil who’s visiting in May, right?
TK: Yes, I have an 11-year-old who lives with his mom in Brazil. He comes every May for the race and stays for the summer. His younger brothers love him; he’s their hero. We talk to him every day on Facetime, which keeps us close, but it’s always fun when he comes around.
TJ: Are you raising your kids bilingually?
TK: Absolutely. I’ve only spoken Portuguese with them since they were born and Lauren speaks English to them. I speak English when there are people around who don’t speak Portuguese, but Deco [Tony’s youngest son] will only reply to me in Portuguese.
TJ: Have you taken them to Brazil?
TK: They’ve been to Brazil a couple times. Traveling now is tough with the little ones and we’ll go more often as they grow up, but it’s important to keep the language and culture relevant. We read two books together every night: one in Portuguese and one in English. Deco knows exactly where Brazil is and tells all his friends that he has a brother who lives in South America.
TJ: Have the older kids expressed an interest in racing?
TK: Leo, the oldest, tried, but it wasn’t his thing. He likes music. He plays piano and drums, and he likes to play soccer. If I had to take a guess, Deco would probably be the one. He loves cars and knows every brand.
It’s not my preference for them to become race car drivers, but it’s something I did with my dad growing up. I remember doing that my entire childhood, going to the track with my dad, so if that’s what they express a desire to do, I won’t stop them. I’ll always support them as much as I can.
TJ: What are you looking forward to this year?
TK: We just moved to Indy a year ago and we’re enjoying the city quite a bit. We came from Miami, and the kids love it because now we have a real winter. I’m really enjoying the city and the time that we have here. This is a great place to raise our kids. I’m looking forward to bringing all the kids to the 500 this time.
I’m just really looking forward to the year and enjoying life. I do what I love and have healthy kids who keep me on my toes, and I couldn’t ask for more.