In Search Of The Tony Kanaan Hat
By Susan Scruggs
Note from George – As I take off today to take care of a personal family matter; frequent contributor to this site, Susan Scruggs, offers her always unique spin on some of the “other” topics of the IZOD IndyCar Series and the Indianapolis 500. Thanks to Susan for helping me out. I’ll return here on Monday January 30 – GP.
I think of myself as a typical IndyCar fan, I don’t know the engines, the nuances of each car, or what more front wing looks like–but I do know what I look for when I go to a race. We budget to attend the Indy 500 each year. Included in my budget has always been for “incidentals.” The hat we must purchase every year and the die-cast car—its part of our tradition.
I remember the days when the merchandise trailers lined the entrance to the track from the infield. Every year there seems to be less merchandise to choose from. Last year we almost made George lose it as we insisted on him dropping us off at the off-track merchandise trailers in search of that elusive Tony Kanaan hat. My son had quite a collection of racing hats, but still no Kanaan/KV racing hat. A few days before Christmas, I was still searching for a Tony Kanaan hat. I found a KV/Lotus hat on their web site and thought that would suffice, and after all, it was green—the color we most associate with Kanaan. I feel certain that it will have an autograph on it the next time we hit a track. I’ll give it to KV Racing–I ordered the hat a few days before Christmas, expecting to give my son an “after Christmas present” but to my delight (and his) there was the box, containing the hat sitting on my porch on Christmas eve. What a great surprise—hats off to KV Racing!
I’m sure you remember me going on and on about my son’s extensive Andretti-Green die-cast car collection. He owns every livery of their cars since he became a fan. We have all the special cars; the Kanaan Hulk car, the Marco Andretti Indiana Jones car, and the Star Wars Clone Wars car, as well as the standard liveries. The pickings have been slim in recent years. A few years ago, the cars shrank to 1:24 as Hot Wheels took over the die-cast cars for IndyCar, that was the year we stopped purchasing the cars. The next year they went back to the Greenlight 1:18 scale.
Since many of the products I design for work are manufactured in China, I do understand the lead time necessary to produce these cars. As sponsorships become like musical chairs before the season begins, I’m sure it becomes almost impossible to put any of the cars in production—especially when it takes about 3 months to get them here on the slow boat from China. I remember the year Marco Andretti ran the Indy 500 in the Indiana Jones car. They began manufacturing the cars as soon as the Blockbuster sponsorship was secured and shipped a limited number of them to be available for the Indy 500. Much to our dismay, those were snapped up by half the fans that attended opening day, many looking for a quick buck on ebay. My son was so disappointed the day we arrived at the speedway and there were none to be had anywhere. We did see them selling for upwards of $150 on ebay. Patience is a virtue, as we got one several weeks later by ordering directly from Andretti Green.
Then there was the year that he made his car purchase at the Indy 500—I only budget for one car a year and try to strictly adhere to it. That was the year Dan Wheldon won in his Klein Tools car. My son rushed to the merchandise trailers after the race and begged me to get the die-cast car for him. Since I was broke by the end of the race, I told him he could buy it if he had the money, which I knew he did not. Call me evil, but I try not to spoil him too much. He was disappointed, but I told him if he hung on to his birthday money (a crisp $50 bill that he conveniently left at home in Nashville), we would see if they had it at the Nashville race. ]. If you know young teenagers, you know how hard it is for them to hang on to money for a week, much less 2 months. When the Nashville race rolled around a few months later, he still had that $50 bill and happily paid for his own Klein Tools car. I’m so grateful now that he had the discipline to hold on to that money. In typical Dan Wheldon style, my son had it autographed the very same day.
I’m looking forward to purchasing a car in the new body style this year—that is if they are available and have not shrunk them back down to 1:24 from the 1:18 size we like. We don’t really care how much they cost–traditions are priceless. Lately it seems like the cars are simply retreads from years before.
Isn’t it great advertising for the sport (and the sponsors) to see people walking around in their racing hats and shirts? I have had several people comment on my Pippa Mann shirt, but I had to order it from England. I realize sponsors change, but the drivers don’t. I look forward to seeing what will be available this year. Who will take the reins since the Danica merchandise machine has gone? I’m not knocking Danica–her marketing team knew they had a moneymaker and used it to their best advantage. What merchandise will fill the void left by her? Will the trailers simply be gone—another tradition gone by the wayside?
As fans, we want to proudly wear apparel that shows what driver we love. It is not just a shirt, a car or a hat–it is a memory—a priceless memory in some cases. I like the fact that my son still wants to get a hat or a car. It reminds me of when he was little and the countless cars we bought. There’s something about a 21 year old who still wants to buy a “toy” car. Merchandisers, sponsors and drivers—I’m putting you on notice–if you make it, we will buy.
Maybe we will even find that elusive Tony Kanaan hat.