Despite the fact that Tony Kanaan finished 11th Sunday in the Indianapolis 500, his was the story of the day.
After nearly missing the field for the 94th running of the “Greatest Spectacle in Racing,” Kanaan started 33rd, found himself second in the closing laps, but a splash of fuel decided his fate.
“I hope I made it exciting out there,” he said afterward. “I promised them a good start, and I think I did that.”
Kanaan’s saga began on qualifying weekend when he crashed two cars before making a late-day run to qualify 32nd. The Team 7-Eleven crew repaired his primary car, pushing him to the last spot.
Kanaan was confident, however, that his car was worthy. “I think we had a shot for a win,” he said. “This whole team, for the work they did today, deserved a top three finish.”
On the Thursday prior to the race he commented that just because his car was starting last, it was not the worst car in the field. He proved that without a doubt. Within the first lap, he went from 33rd to 25th. Within 20 laps, he had moved to 16th. At one point, he was turning laps of 226 mph.
Everything was working for him. Kanaan gained eight positions from his pit stop on lap 67, moving him into fourth behind Dario Franchitti, Helio Castroneves and Ryan Briscoe. At the midway point, Kanaan fell into fifth place, but began to move again.
He started to set the stage for one of the biggest comebacks in race history. In 1932, Zeke Meyer improved 32 positions, from 38th to 6th. No car had ever won from farther back than 28th.
As Franchitti moved into the lead over Tomas Scheckter, Kanaan followed, taking second. From lap 114 to 160, he maintained his position.
During the last round of pit stops, Kanaan emerged in fifth, but the top three cars did not stop. As that group peeled off, he again found himself chasing Franchitti.
With six laps to go, the crowd cheered wildly every time Kanaan went by on the front straightaway. They were waiting on his storybook ending, but he wasn’t going to make it. He had to come in for a few seconds of fuel on lap 196. Not enough time remained for another climb to the top.
“We took a gamble. When it comes to a fuel-strategy race, I’m not a big fan of it. It could have gone the other way. We could have gotten the lead and won the race, and we could brag about it for the rest of my life,” he said afterward.
Kanaan has been one of the most beloved drivers in the series. He always found the time to talk to his fans, and they repaid him every day since his Bump Day drama with cheers. In an emotional interview that day, he said. “I never thought starting 32nd would feel better than the pole.”
During driver introductions before the race, Kanaan got the biggest response of all. Fans stood for the guy, who they believed could be the one who deserved it and could do something that had never been accomplished in the history of the Indianapolis 500.
His teammates at Andretti Autosport also found their day much improved from qualifying.
Marco Andretti also improved tremendously from his 16th starting slot. He battled for top spots in the final 50 laps before finishing third.
Andretti was initially credited with sixth, but was moved to third after a review showed that three cars passed him when the caution came out on the final lap. “I think every time I finish here, I've been on the podium. We had a third in ‘08, as well. We’ve run strong here,” he said. “As far as confidence, that means a lot to me because it shows that we can do it. It's just about getting everything right.”
Like Kanaan, he felt his car was good. “It took us a little longer to get to the front. But I think once we were in clean air, it was smooth sailing.”
Danica Patrick started 23rd. She slowly worked her way through the traffic, avoided trouble and finished sixth. “The pit stops were great. Between pit stops and strategy, it put us in fifth,” she said before the order was changed. “I focused on making sure I lifted and got a tow from other cars to save fuel as the laps were winding down.”
Ryan Hunter-Reay also ran in the top 10 in the closing laps until an incident with Mike Conway left him in 18th place.
Alex Lloyd turned in another darkhorse performance. His Dale Coyne Racing entry had come from 26th to finish fourth. “I knew I had a good car. We worked solidly all month on race setup. Today we were conservative with the downforce, and I knew I had to be patient,” he said.
Lloyd’s performance proved to himself and everyone that they can compete. “We’re a small team and we can still go out there and compete with the big guns. We knew it was possible, but this is maybe even better than we could have dreamed of.”
Panther Racing’s Dan Wheldon made the last attempt at Franchitti. His second-place run was two in a row at Indy. Wheldon came from 18th. “We came up a little short, but still a fantastic finish. This event has always been the greatest in the world,” he concluded.
Wheldon partly blamed himself for not taking the win. “I’m getting older and a little more conservative. I should not have been so disciplined.
“Back in the day, I probably would have ignored some of the instructions I got on those last five laps. As I’ve got older, I think I’m a bit better behaved. I took it upon myself to save fuel early on in that stint. I was lifting through the middle of every corner at one point just to kind of set myself up for the end. I was still able to run a relatively good pace doing that.”
Wheldon was, however, out of the Overtake Assists which complicated his run.
Kanaan, Lloyd, Wheldon, Patrick and Andretti all began the race out of the top 15. They all ran in the top five during at least one point in the race. Lloyd and Kanaan each advanced 22 positions, the most of any finisher.
Despite the fact that Tony Kanaan finished 11th Sunday in the Indianapolis 500, his was the story of the day.
- Auto Racing
VIDEO: Windom seeking strong start to USAC Silver Crown Series at Action Track
Chris Windom has big plans.
Sure, the 23-year-old would like to make the ascent from success in the U.S. Auto Club to the fame and fortune of the larger racing series of NASCAR.
The Canton, Ohio, native who makes his home in West Lafayette has his sights on a big USAC season in 2014. Windom was second in Silver Crown points in 2013 and ninth in the sprint series.
Trackside: If weather cooperates, racers are set to start their engines
With any assistance from the weather, the Wabash Valley motorsports season is expected to shift into high gear this weekend on several fronts.
Nabors to sing ‘Indiana’ one last time at IMS
INDIANAPOLIS — Beloved actor-entertainer and legendary Indianapolis 500 icon Jim Nabors will sing “(Back Home Again in) Indiana” at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway for the final time prior to the start of the 98th running of the Indianapolis 500 on Sunday, May 25. Watch YouTube Video
Action Track great Gary Bettenhausen dies
Gary Bettenhausen, a legend of the Terre Haute Action Track, has died at age 72.
Kurt Busch to try Indy 500, Coca-Cola 600 on same day
It’s been 10 years since a driver last attempted running both the Indianapolis 500 and the Coca-Cola 600 on the same day, a feat so grueling that only Tony Stewart has successfully completed all 1,100 miles.
Now Kurt Busch wants to give “the double” a try and he will have cars capable of winning both races.
Kurt Busch 70 percent sure he’ll run in Indy 500
Kurt Busch put his chances at “70 percent” at running the Indianapolis 500 this year because of recent developments that have pushed a potential program along.
Doctors tell Indy 500 winner Dario Franchitti he can no longer race
Three-time Indianapolis 500 winner Dario Franchitti said Thursday that doctors have told him he can no longer race because of injuries sustained in an IndyCar crash last month.
Trackside: Burns, Fitzpatrick provide fun moments at Putnamville
In a season that has generated more than its share of down moments for Wabash Valley fans and racers, last Saturday’s “King of non-wing Sprints” program at Lincoln Park Speedway served notice that there are still a few positive storylines to be found in the wild and unpredictable sport of sprint-car racing.
One such storyline unfolded this past weekend on the rough and challenging 5⁄16-mile Putnamville dirt oval. That’s where the runs of Eric Burns and Blake Fitzpatrick sent fans home feeling that if the season has to come to a close, it couldn’t end on a happier or brighter note.
Coons Jr. wins USAC Tony Hulman/Jim Hurtubise Classic at Action Track
For all but one race during its 2013 racing season, the Terre Haute Action Track has taken a beating from Mother Nature.
Trackside: Stewart proves versatility is one of his strongpoints
At a time each summer when stock-car racing takes center stage in the heart of open-wheel racing territory, it was Tony Stewart who emerged the big winner last weekend.
No, not Tony Stewart the race driver but Tony Stewart the owner. He’s the undisputed leader on two racing fronts — the car owner in the NASCAR Sprint Cup series with Ryan Newman as his driver and the owner-operator of Eldora Speedway. The popular Indiana native posted impressive showings in both ventures.
Precipitation has been unkind to Action Track in 2013
Bob Sargent has seen it all and done it all in 30 years of motorsports track promotion. The Terre Haute Action Track promoter isn’t going to be fazed by much, but even he had to admit there is one thing that has sent a shiver down his spine in 2013.
The weather forecasts. He was asked if watching the weather has given him anxiety in a wet year.
“Sometimes,” Sargent chuckled. “But doing it this long, it becomes normal. I don’t if it’s nervousness so much as it’s frustrating. Rain is a big letdown.”
Trackside: Sprint Week is fun week for USAC fans
With three rounds down and four to go, the 2013 version of Indiana Sprint Week is ready to take center stage at the Terre Haute Action Track tonight — weather permitting, of course.
It’s hard not to mention the elements when talking racing at the Action Track this season.
Race organizers Reece O’Connor and Bob Sargent have felt the sting of Mother Nature worse than most Midwest promoters this spring and summer with all five of their scheduled shows washed out.
Track opener is facing another iffy forecast
Two of the biggest challenges facing race organizers are the constant bouts with the always unpredictable ways of the weather and trying to please the insatiable appetites of a fickle fan base.
TRACKSIDE: Crossroads Dragway hoping to build off big event
It was a day of firsts at Crossroads Dragway this past weekend.
No, not because the sun actually made its first all-day appearance of the season at the drag-racing facility, but for the unveiling of a new racing format that just might alter the looks of 1/8-mile member track NHRA bracket racing.
Metro roundup: For 2nd time, Hulman Classic postponed
Qualifying laps had concluded for the 43rd running of the Tony Hulman Classic on Friday when the weather struck for the third time this season — second time for the Classic — at the Terre Haute Action Track.
Hulman Classic on Friday at Action Track
With rainouts having postponed his only two Terre Haute Action Track cards so far in 2013, promoter Bob Sargent remains optimistic about the rescheduled Tony Hulman Classic for U.S. Auto Club sprint cars taking place Friday night.
Finding best talent the key to all sports, including auto racing
The success of any sporting franchise often rests with the ability of owners to find and mold talent into a winning combination.
Kanaan can: Tony Kanaan finally wins Indy 500, ends heartbreak
Tony Kanaan had been so close so many times in the Indianapolis 500 until Sunday. Now he’s a winner.
Crowd, competitors erupt in celebration for Brazilian driver
Tony Kanaan has always been philosophical about his not winning at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
Rookies fare well in 97th running of the Indy 500
Rookies did real well in the 97th running of the Indianapolis 500 on Sunday at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
Top guns, again
For the sixth time in his Indy career Friday, three-time Indy 500 champion Helio Castroneves won the Pit Stop Challenge on Carb Day at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
Looking for Indy breakthrough, Kanaan enjoying role as team mentor
Ask any IZOD IndyCar series champion and he’d say he would gladly give up that championship to win one Indianapolis 500.
TRACKSIDE: Local drivers, owners looking to have strong night at Tony Hulman Classic
In its rich 43-year history, the Tony Hulman Sprint Car Classic has long carried on a strong local racing tradition.
From its early beginnings starting in 1971, the U.S. Auto Club-sanctioned event has been the annual centerpiece of the racing calendar at the Terre Haute Action Track as well as a key stop on the USAC sprint schedule and one of the most sought after wins in big league sprint-car racing.
Carpenter arrives as Indy 500 threat
And the crowd went wild.
Not only did Ed Carpenter win the pole for the 97th running of the Indianapolis 500, he is the hometown son. Carpenter, the stepson of Tony George, completed his rookie orientation in 2004 and has spent the last several years, proving he deserved to be the IZOD IndyCar Series. There is no questioning his credentials now.
Carpenter wins Indy 500 pole
Ed Carpenter is on the pole for the 97th running of the Indianapolis 500.
The native of Marshall, Ill., earned the No. 1 spot for the May 26 race with a strong run in the Fast Nine competition at Indianapolis Motor Speedway on Saturday. He is the first American driver on the pole since 2006.
TRACKSIDE: Rain still a pain for Wabash Valley racing organizers
Soggy weather conditions, which have rightfully drawn the ire of Wabash Valley race fans and crews in recent days, continue to plague promoters where it hurts the most — their pocketbooks.
TRACKSIDE: Tough to rise from sprint-car racing, especially in challenging financial times
Open-wheel sprint-car racing, whether it be at the national or local level, has earned a reputation over the years of generating its share of thrills and excitement for its fans and a valuable training ground for drivers seeking to hone their skills that someday might elevate them to the “major leagues” of their sport.
METRO ROUNDUP: Rose baseball wins another thriller
Rose-Hulman earned its third victory in its last at-bat in the last five days with a 6-5 win over Franklin in Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference baseball Tuesday night at Art Nehf Field.
East gets jump at SUMAR Classic
In his relatively brief but successful racing career, young Bobby East has at times unfairly been labeled as a driver who could master the pavement ovals but one who was still a work in progress on the dirt.
Hurtubise, Sumar races on Action Track slate this weekend
Championship racing is scheduled this weekend at the Terre Haute Action Track with U.S. Auto Club features set for today and Saturday.
One USAC championship will be decided and the spread in the other division could widen or tighten up as a result of the races.
The Jim Hurtubise Classic for sprint cars is today. Only 26 points separate three drivers in the point totals.
- More Auto Racing Headlines
- VIDEO: Windom seeking strong start to USAC Silver Crown Series at Action Track