Kanaan Finally Gets His Indianapolis 500 Victory
Tony Kanaan, the fun-loving and popular veteran driver from Brazil, won his first Indianapolis 500 Sunday when a yellow flag came out with Kanaan leading and three laps to go in the 200-lap race.
The victory in the 97th running of the big race came in Kanaan’s 12th start. It came after several painfully frustrating close calls at winning Indy during the previous 11 starts. It came in a race which featured a record 68 lead changes.
“I made it,” Kanaan said in Victory Circle. “I don’t know what to say.”
It was the 16th career victory for Kanaan, who was in a Dallara-Chevrolet for KV Racing. Kanaan, the IndyCar Series champion in 2004, drew a loud and long ovations from the fans as he took his victory lap.
“Finally, I’m going to put my ugly face on that trophy,” said Kanaan, after a long gulp of milk.
“I got a little bit of luck today,” Kanaan, who’s also extremely popular among fellow competitors, said. “It’s for the fans. It’s for my dad who’s not here. But mainly for all of you guys (fans). I was looking at the stands, and it was unbelievable.
Rookie Carlos Munoz of Andretti Autosport finished second and Ryan Hunter-Reay, also of the Andretti team, finished third.
Marco Andretti, a third Andretti driver, finished fourth while Justin Wilson was fifth.
“I couldn’t win the race by myself so I had to hire the right guy to do it,” KV Racing co-owner and former driver Jimmy Vasser. “So popular. I’ve never seen all the people sit after the race. And they were chanting, most everyone was still in their seats when they came around on the Pace Car. You could just tell the love they have for him. He should have won one or two of these things before.”
Polesitter Ed Carpenter led the field to the green flag and then into infamous Turn 1. All cars made it through the first corner and the race was off to a clean start under cloudy skies and coolish temperatures.
Kanaan took the lead when when he passed pole-sitter Carpenter on lap nine – just after the race went
green following a one-car wreck involving J.R. Hildebrand of Panther Racing.
Four laps later, Andretti took the lead – for one lap, as Kanaan came right back.
On lap 16, Andretti came back to take the lead heading to the start/finish line. A lap later, back came Kanaan. On the front stretch, the leap frogging continued as Andretti grabbed the lead. Lap 19, Kanaan came back to pass Andretti and two laps later, Andretti was back to the front.
The two former teammates continued to trade the lead every lap or two until Kanaan started green-flag pit stops on lap 29.
Pitting had not cycled through wwhen Sebastian Saavedra hit the wall to bring out a caution on lap 36. James Jakes had the lead when the yellow flashed and Pipa Mann was second.
When the race restarted on lap 44, Carpenter was the leader and Andretti second. They traded places almost immediately after the race went green. A lap later, back came Carpenter.
Carpenter was leading on lap 51 when Takuma Sato, driving for A.J. Foyt, spun to bring out a yellow. After going green again, the lead exchanged hands a couple times until Will Power took the lead on lap 75 and held it until green-flag pitting began on lap 89.
On lap 98, AJ Allmendinger took the lead for the first time and was the leader two laps later when the race reached the half way point. Allmendinger, who spent the last several years in NASCAR, held the lead until he had to pit when his safety belt came undone.
Taking over was Andretti while Allmendinger lost a lap.
On lap 116, Kanaan took the lead back.
On lap 122, green-flag pitting began. When the pitting cycled through, defending IndyCar champion Hunter-Reay had the lead with Andretti Autosport teammate Andretti right behind. Andretti quickly moved back to the lead. On lap 131, Hunter-Reay came back to lead.
Two laps later, E.J. Viso, also of the Andretti team, took the lead. On lap 136, Hunter-Reay from third to first to take the lead.
On lap 138, Allemendinger, running on an alternate pit stop schedule because of his having to pit for the loose belt earlier, took the lead.
Allmendinger soon had to pit from the lead and that gave Hunter-Reay the lead.
With 56 laps to go, three-time winner Helio Castroneves took his first lead of the day. The lead was short lived as Andretti came back for the pass.
On lap 151, Andretti pitted under green for a scheduled stop and the rest of the field soon followed. When the pitting cycled through on lap 157 Andretti had the lead once again. Briefly, that is, as Hunter-Reay moved back to the lead.
On lap 165, Allmendinger moved back to the lead. That was the 50th lead change of the race. No. 51 came on lap 168 when Andretti moved past Allmendinger.
Over the next ten or so laps, the lead went back and forth between Andretti, Kanaan and Hunter-Reay. On lap 178, Kaanan pitted for the lead to start the final round of green-flag stops.
When pitting cycled through with 12 laps to go, Hunter-Reay was first, Kanaan second and Andretti third. A lap later, Kanaan passed for the lead.
With 10 laps to go, Kanaan and Hunter-Reay exchanged the lead a couple of times. When the field hit the start-finish line with eight to go, Kanaan moved back to the lead. When next they crossed the stripe, Hunter-Reay had the lead.
With seven to go, Graham Rahal hit the wall on the backstretch to bring out a caution.
Up front, Hunter-Reay had the lead, Kanaan was second, Munoz was third, Andretti was fourth and Justin Wilson, coming on late, was fifth. Castroneves was sixth and Allmendinger seventh.
The race restarted with four laps to go.
Kanaan took the lead in Turn 1. A couple of seconds later, three-time leader Dario Franchitti hit the wall to bring out the yellow. From there, he cruised at pace car speed to the checkered flag.
“That’s just the way it works out,” said Hunter-Reay of the restart following the third caution of the race. “I knew I was a sitting duck and I wasn’t too bummed about it because I knew we had enough laps to get it going again and have a pass back and maybe I would be third on the last lap, which is where I wanted to be and it didn’t work out that way.
“Big congratulations to Tony Kanaan, though. He has been there so many times, had bad luck and for whatever reason the race has alluded him. Great champion, certainly deserves it. But man am I disappointed.”
(This story will be updated shortly)No Comment