Kanaan, along with fellow Verizon IndyCar Series drivers Ed Carpenter, Sebastien Bourdais and rookie Carlos Munoz, paid a special visit to Roanoke Elementary School to take part in their Victory Lap Celebration in recognition of the 760 students winning Texas Motor Speedway’s “Speeding To Read” school championship.
“It is full of champions here and it’s great to be a part of this,” Kanaan said. “When you are interacting with kids, it is always cool. They are so innocent and they have such a way of seeing things so much differently than you. For me it is relaxing , I’ve always enjoyed school visits and being able to talk about my career because I remember when I was in school and I would look up to the guys that would come visit. This has been a lot of fun.”
Roanoke Elementary competed against 10 other local schools consisting of nearly 6,000 students in the year-long competition, and captured the overall school reading crown in April by having 97 percent of their student body meet or exceed their pre-set reading goals. The 11 schools, consisting of kindergarten through fifth graders, combined to read more than one million books during the school year.
Roanoke’s student body was treated to a pizza party courtesy of Domino’s Pizza and the drivers surprised the children and faculty by providing each of them with four tickets to Saturday night’s Firestone 600 Verizon IndyCar Series race compliments of Texas Motor Speedway for their accomplishment.
Kanaan, Carpenter, Munoz and Bourdais had a full morning with the students as they conducted a Q&A session and then participated as team captains in three sessions of a racing-themed field day that consisted of a Roanoke Ranger box car relay, Firestone tire roll relay and a scooter board relay. The drivers took turns in the competition as well as served as cheerleaders for their respective teams.
“I have enjoyed all of them (activities) because the kids are very competitive and I am really competitive, so we are just having fun,” Munoz said. “All of them are really nice and I know the children are having fun, which is the most important thing.”
The drivers also got to see some future Indy-car engineers in the making as the first graders presented their science projects, which were race cars they built with 3D objects found in their homes. And a few even got the opportunity sit in the cockpit of the Verizon IndyCar Series show car that was on hand.
“It is a lot of fun to be here, you know a couple days left in school, to participate in field day and most importantly to see the ‘Speeding to Read’ program and be at the school that won,” Carpenter said. “They read a million books between the 11 schools; that is awesome and the participation rate was 97 percent at this school. I have a daughter who just finished kindergarten and I know how hard it is to get the whole school to participate, so this is really cool. Seems like a great school with great teachers.”
The drivers discussed their careers, cultural backgrounds and their families with the students and also emphasized the importance of an education.
“The importance of education is huge for me. Only a couple of guys from IndyCar graduated from college, so education is a big part in my life,” said Carpenter, who graduated from Butler University. “It’s great to see these kids working hard here and also share my education with them so they can see that you can be a professional athlete or do whatever you want to do and still go to college and get your degree at the same time.”
“Education is the most important thing, my family taught me that,” added Munoz. “My father would always say to me you have to finish school and then you can concentrate on racing and that’s what I did. I went to school and my father would say to me ‘if your grades are no good then you are finished racing.’”