Tony Kanaan had been so close so many times in the Indianapolis 500 until Sunday. Now he’s a winner.
The popular driver from Brazil passed Ryan Hunter-Reay on the front stretch on a restart at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway to take the lead on the 198th lap, just before Dario Franchitti brushed the wall to bring out the second yellow of the final 10 laps.
Two laps later, Kanaan took the checkered flag under caution in his 12th time in the race, having finished second twice, third once, fourth once, fifth once and eighth once. He was third a year ago and fourth in 2011.
“I made it. I had a little bit of luck. We had a great car, a great plan. I don’t know what to say … that last lap was the longest of my life. Life is funny. Yellow was my best friend,” said the 38-year-old driver who has been driving for KV Racing Technology for three years.
“I never doubted I could win this thing,” said Kanaan.
Jimmy Vasser is one of the principals in KV Racing.
“He is just awesome in those restart positions. He was just great all day. Alex Zanardi gave us some luck today. He gave us his gold medal from London and told us, ‘Rub this all over the car.’ The stars started lining up for us,” said Vasser.
Following the winner at the finish were rookie Carlos Munoz, Hunter-Reay, Marco Andretti and Justin Wilson.
Kanaan started 12th in the race and moved up fast, leading 34 laps. He was the leader on the 190th lap but was passed by Hunter-Reay on the 192nd lap to set up the final heroics.
“We put ourselves in a position to win … and had our chance. I knew I was a sitting duck on the restart. That is the way it works out. I think [we] had the car to beat today. [Kanaan is] a great champion and certainly deserves. But man am I disappointed,” said 2012 Izod IndyCar Series champ Hunter-Reay, giving Andretti Autosport three of the top five finishers.
Wilson drives for Dale Coyne Racing.
Andretti started third and led 31 laps.
Ed Carpenter was the pole sitter and led the most laps, being in the top spot 37 laps. He finished 10th.
Dario Franchitti and Helio Castroneves both were going for their fourth win in the race. Franchitti finished 23rd and Castroneves was sixth.
“We had a good car. It was a tough race. We were a little conservative early and didn’t have the downforce compared to some … that did us in in the end,” said Carpenter.
Only five cautions were shown in the race, two of them in the final six laps, and there were 68 lead changes — easily breaking the old mark of 34 set last year.
Temperature at noon at the start of the race was 62 degrees, making it one of the coolest race days; in 2003 the temperature was 65 degrees.
The start was a good one with Carpenter assuming the lead from the pole and holding it for eight laps.
J.R. Hildebrand was first out of the race in the Panther Racing car. He was gone after three laps.
Sebastian Saavedra was next out with a minor mishap, finishing 34 laps.
The only other drivers not running at the finish were Buddy Lazier and Pippa Mann. Neither finished 50 laps.
Takumo Sato spun on the 57th lap but continued to run and finished 13th. He had been the leader in the series point totals going into the race.
No major gaps in any stands were observed at the start of the race except for some seats low in some stands that offer a poor view of the track.