Racing news from the Indiana motorsports scene

Kanaan Wins Exciting Indianapolis 500 Record Setter

Indianapolis 500 winner, Tony Kanaan, continued the recent tradition of kissing the bricks on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway as part of the victory ceremony. [Gary Shook photo]

Indianapolis 500 winner, Tony Kanaan, continued the recent tradition of kissing the bricks on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway as part of the victory ceremony. [Gary Shook photo]

After winning Sunday’s Indianapolis 500, race winner Tony Kanaan took a drink of the traditional winner’s bottle of milk, and then poured the rest of the bottle over his head. [Russ Lake Photo]

After winning Sunday’s Indianapolis 500, race winner Tony Kanaan took a drink of the traditional winner’s bottle of milk, and then poured the rest of the bottle over his head. [Russ Lake Photo]

Indianapolis, Ind. – In an exciting day of action at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, Tony Kanaan scored an exciting victory in the 97th running of the Indianapolis 500. After 11 attempts and near-misses, the win came in his 12th run at IMS and in his 201st consecutive IZOD IndyCar Series race. Even though the race ended under the caution flag, the large crowd was treated to a highly competitive race until it ended with a wreck with three laps to go.

The raced ended up finishing under the yellow flag, as the track crew didn’t have time to remove the wrecked car of Dario Franchitti from the track.

The post-race celebration was nearly as exciting as the race with Kanaan, his team and fellow drivers along with the fans expressing their delight with the outcome.

A year ago, the race was run in oppressive heat, but this edition experienced unseasonably cool weather with the temperature registering 62 degrees at the start.

Records for speed, lead changes and leaders were set during the 200-lap race. Race became the fastest 500 ever at 187.433 miles per hour (previous record of 185.981 mph set in 1990 by Arie Luyendyk), the 68 lead changes erased the previous mark of 34 set a year ago and the 14 race leaders beat the 1993 mark by two.

Also, there were 133 consecutive green-flag laps, the longest in history since caution flags were recorded beginning in 1976. The 21 yellow flag laps were the fewest in a race that went the full distance.

Four caution flags slowed the race for 21 laps with two of the slowdowns coming near the end. Graham Rahal triggered the first one on lap 194 and Dario Franchitti the second, one lap after the final restart.

“I don’t know where to start,” Kanaan said in the post-race interview. “My car was very good, and it was one of those days where everything was so smooth. We felt that everything was under control, but in the 11 previous times here, I thought the same thing. With six laps to go, I said to myself, ‘This might be my day because I have been in this position many times.’

“But then on the restart, I knew I had to get the lead because it could be the end. How life is funny with the yellow being my best friend. I could see Dario (Franchitti) in the (crashed) car and once he got out, he was waving to me. It was so special. I never had a doubt that I could win this thing. This place is so special, and today it worked. This is the biggest win ever for me.

The winner drove the Hydroxycut KV Racing Technology-SH Racing Chevrolet co-owned by Jimmy Vasser, Kevin Kalkhoven and Imran Safiulla.

“I never won this race as a driver and couldn’t seem to do so, so I had to hire a driver to do it,” Vasser said. “Tony is the consummate professional, and he’s been coming here for a long time. Starting a year ago, we decided to focus on Indy by taking a chassis and putting it aside. A lot of credit goes to the boys, who have worked very hard over the winter. Tony was right, ‘the stars started lining up for us.'”

As the race wound down, Kanaan, Ryan Hunter-Reay, Marco Andretti and rookie sensation Carlos Munoz had the large crowd on its feet as they waged an intense battle, one that stopped momentarily when Rahal crashed and for the final time when Franchitti crashed.

For the restart on lap 197, Kanaan forged into the lead as the tightly bunched field raced into the first turn with Munoz, Hunter-Reay and Andretti in close pursuit and finishing in that order.

En route to the win, Kanaan led 34 laps with fast qualifiers Ed Carpenter on top with 37 lead laps.

Munoz and Hunter-Reay were hoping the race would finish under the green flag, as they thought their chances for victory were strong.

Said Munoz, “I really wanted to fight for the win. Maybe I could win and maybe not, but I really wanted to fight. I have nothing to be ashamed of. To be second and a rookie and the best of the team (Andretti Autosport) is a great job. Hopefully, in the future, I will be able to drink the milk.”

About the race, the 21-year old driver added, “At the beginning I was a little bit nervous with the pit stops and a lot of people overtook me. But I was patient and one by one I went back to the front. The last two pit stops, the guys and me, we did a great job to not lose any positions. On that last yellow flag, I thought I had a shot to win, as the car was awesome from the first lap to the last one.”

He drove the Unistraw Chevrolet, one of five cars from the Andretti Autosport stable.

Hunter-Reay finished a disappointing third but he did express pleasure with seeing his friend Kanaan win.

“It was awesome running up front all day and having the car to put you there,” he commented. “I could just put it where I wanted to and pass when I wanted to. We were just kind of biding our time. The frustrating part is we were quick enough and I saw (near the end) that we had traffic coming up and I thought, ‘This is great. If I can get in lapped traffic, I can distance myself because our car was great in the traffic.’ “But right as I was getting the tow from traffic, the yellow came out. We were leading and the rest is history. When you’re leading up front, especially on a restart, you might as well be driving a bulldozer, everybody can come on by. I figured we would have been shuffled back to four or more on the restart, so I’m actually happy with third.”

Andretti also was disappointed with the end result of fourth. “When we stopped for a trim adjustment, we were in the worst-case scenario, getting stuck behind some teammates,” he said. “It was fun for a while, but we just got shuffled back.”

He led 31 laps.

Justin Wilson took fifth, giving Honda its best finish.

Sixth through 10th were Helio Castroneves (Chevrolet), A. J. Allmendinger (Chevrolet), Simon Pagenaud (Honda), Charlie Kimball (Honda) and pole winner Ed Carpenter (Chevrolet).

Honda drivers and former winners Scott Dixon and Franchitti were 14th and 23rd, respectively.

As Franchitti sat in his wrecked car at the end, he said he was pleased to see his friend Kanaan in the lead. “It is great, just phenomenal that Tony won.”

At the end, 26 cars were running.

A week from now, the IZOD IndyCar Series travels to Detroit to race on the Belle Isle Park street course.

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