Brazilian Tony Kanaan, who had spent the last decade falling short in Indy, celebrates after winning one of the most exciting Indianapolis 500 races in recent memory.
INDIANAPOLIS — Finally, Tony Kanaan got to victory lane in the Indianapolis 500.
He waited 12 years. He endured crashes. He felt the heartbreak of Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
Appropriately, it was Kanaan’s pass of Ryan Hunter-Reay on the restart of Lap 198 on Sunday at Indianapolis Motor Speedway that resulted in the win. It was set up by Graham Rahal’s crash in Turn 2.
Kanaan has used countless spectacular restarts in his career, making it his signature.
The 2004 IndyCar Series champion was always known for failing to win the sport’s biggest race, but no more. He soon will have his face on the Borg-Warner Trophy.
“My ugly face,” he said.
Just after Kanaan took the lead, there was a crash. And there was irony in the fact it was his friend, Dario Franchitti. That effectively ended the race, arguably the best and fastest and most competitive in history.
Kanaan said the last two laps, particularly the final one, were the longest of his career. He closely followed the pace car and then held up one finger as he crossed the finish line.
“I got a little bit of luck today,” he said. “(The win) is for the fans. It’s for my dad that’s not here. But mainly for (the fans).
“I was looking at the stands, and it was unbelievable. I’m speechless.”
Of course, he wasn’t.
“This is it, man, I made it,” he said. “Finally, they’re going to put my ugly face on this trophy. We were known for not winning, and now we (have won).”
Kanaan said he didn’t know how to react once he learned Franchitti was in the wall in Turn 1.
“I couldn’t believe it,” he said. “(I said), ‘How many laps to go? Two to go? I guess that’s it.
“The last lap was the longest lap of my life. I wanted the pace car to hurry up. I enjoyed it. We did it.”
Kanaan’s win denied Helio Castroneves and Franchitti their record-tying fourth 500 victory. Castroneves finished sixth, Franchitti 23rd.
Rookie Carlos Munoz finished second after pulling a Kanaan-like move through the traffic on the final restart. He went to the outside to pass Hunter-Reay, who settled for third.
Kanaan actually sort of blocked his former Andretti Autosport teammate, Marco Andretti, for the lead or the Andretti bad luck at IMS might have ended with the family’s first victory here since Mario Andretti in 1969.
Marco finished fourth, leading 31 laps after being in front for a race-high 59 last year.
“If there’s anybody who deserves to win, it’s TK,” said Marco, who jumped in the pace car with the winning driver after the race.
Michael Andretti’s drivers had every right to the spot on the Borg-Warner Trophy. They finished second, third, fourth, 18th (EJ Viso) and 21st (James Hinchcliffe).
Viso led five laps, Hinchcliffe seven. The combination of drivers led 81 of the 200 laps.
Justin Wilson rallied to finish fifth, stopping the bleeding for Honda. The next-highest finish for Honda was Simon Pagenaud in eighth.
The race will be remembered for twice the number of lead changes (68) as the record (34, last year), and the competitiveness through the field. At one point late in the race, there were 19 cars within five seconds. Fourteen drivers led, also a record.
A.J. Allmendinger led several laps in the second half of the race and finished seventh.
Less than a year ago, Allmendinger was suspended by NASCAR for violating its substance abuse program. Then he was fired by Penske Racing. But team owner Roger Penske gave Allmendinger a second chance, and this was his third IndyCar race. He’ll also race next week in the Detroit Grand Prix.
J.R. Hildebrand was a popular darkhorse pick, but he lasted just a little longer than three laps. He was on the outside of James Hinchcliffe went his car got a tad high in the first turn when the back end snapped and spun. He hit the wall.
Sebastian Saavedra also spun later in the short straightaway between Turns 3 and 4. He was trying to pass another car when he ran out of room. Saavedra glanced off the wall on Lap 35.
Katherine Legge also scrubbed the wall during that portion of the race.
No driver attempted the double with NASCAR’s Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway, but reigning Sprint Cup Series champion Brad Keselowski started his day watching the 500 from pit road. He left for Charlotte just before the halfway point.