Tony Kanaan Wins Incredible Indy 500

Photo: Marshall Pruett

Pure, heart pounding intensity.

There’s no other way to describe the 97th running of the Indianapolis 500. And when it was over, the most popular driver in the field who’d never won the race–someone who fans have tried to will to victory over and over again–finally saw his dream come true.

KV Racing’s Tony Kanaan is no longer a bridesmaid after winning one of the most thrilling Indy 500s in years as he took Chevy to Victory Lane in his 12th start, dueling with his former teammates at Andretti Autosport to earn the sport’s biggest prize.

“We had a great car, said Kanaan. “I knew that from the get-go. We had a great plan. It was one of those days. Everything was so smooth. Jimmy was calm. I was calm. But, 11 times I have been here I had the same thing.”

Kanaan nearly won last year, but a caution on lap 199 prevented that from happening, just as it did in 2007 when rain brought an early end to the race, allowing his friend Dario Franchitti to win his first 500.

“With six laps to go when I wasn’t in the lead, I thought it might be my day. I knew I had to get the lead on the restart because it could be a yellow which happened plenty of times to me here. Which is funny. Yellows were my best friend. I never had a doubt I could win this thing.”

Kanaan, who married Lauren Bohlander earlier this year, had the assembled media laughing hard when he said “Every time I got married I won a championship or a race!”

Realizing he essentially said he’d need to get divorced and married again to keep winning, he then looked over to his new bride and said, “Honey, it’s OK, I don’t want to win anything anymore!”

The 2004 Series champion led 15 different times throughout the contest, passing polesitter Ed Carpenter for the lead on Lap 9 and fighting among the top 5 all day–sometimes taking and surrendering the lead on the same lap.

A late-race yellow made for a wild restart on Lap 197 where Kanaan passed Ryan Hunter-Reay, setting a staggering record of 68 lead changes, double the previous record of 34 from last year–and when TK’s friend Dario Franchitti crashed on the same lap, the ensuing caution on Lap 198 sealed the Brazilian’s first win and produced a deafening cheer from the few hundred thousand fans in attendance.

The race also broke the record for the fastest Indy 500 in history with an average speed of 187.433 mph.

Andretti Autosport rookie Carlos Munoz raced his way to second in the final laps–the exact position he started from–while teammate Ryan Hunter-Reay completed the top 3 and Marco Andretti took fourth, giving Chevy first through fourth on a day where Honda had no answer for the Bowtie. Dale Coyne Racing’s Justin Wilson finished fifth, the first of the Honda runners.

And among the powerhouse teams, Penske couldn’t get it done. Andretti came up short and Ganassi Racing was nowhere to be found. It was the unheralded KV Racing that did the seemingly impossible by breaking through to win its first IZOD IndyCar Series race on the sport’s biggest stage–just as Bryan Herta Autosport and Dan Wheldon did in 2011.

And in a final tale of ridiculousness, Kanaan’s car remains unsponsored for the next three IndyCar events. Something tells me that problem will be solved rather quickly.

THE RACE

It’s hard to come up with just one word to sum up the 2013 edition of the Indy 500, but ‘frenetic,’ ‘insane,’ ‘dizzying’ and ‘unbelievable’ can be used without a hint of exaggeration. Andretti Autosport was strong all day, Team Penske surged and sank, rookie AJ Allmendinger led more than once, the Ganassi team was nowhere, E.J. Viso led, Buddy Lazier charged forward while his car lasted and a dozen other stories marked an afternoon where each lap felt like a separate race of its own.

It kicked off with Carpenter leading into Turn 1 and holding strong as Kanaan, who started 12th, did his usual routine of passing everything in sight.

By lap 9, he was into the lead, but Carpenter and Andretti was more than a match for the No. 11 Hydroxycut-sponsored car.

Carpenter took the lead back on Lap 10, Kanaan returned the favor on Lap 13, Andretti took the point on Lap 15, Kanaan took it back on Lap 17, Andretti passed Kanaan on Lap 21, and TK did the same on Lap 23.

Lap 24: Andretti. Lap 27: Kanaan. Lap 29: Andretti… And on and on it went through the entire race.

Behind them some mild jockeying went on, but four of the five Andretti cars, Kanaan, and a rotating cast from Penske posed the most serious threat through the first 150 laps.

Next to Carpenter, who led 37 laps, 2012 IndyCar Series champion Ryan Hunter-Reay, along with stablemate Marco Andretti, looked like the other two obvious choices to claim the win.

Carpenter lost the balance on his car late in the race and struggled to stay with the leaders. He’d eventually finish 10th.

“We had a good car,” he said. “It was a tough race. It was so competitive. If you make one little mistake, then you would get shuffled back. We were a little conservative early and didn’t have the right amount of downforce compared to some guys, and that did us in the end. But that was the strategy we went with, and it didn’t work out. Overall, I am very happy for the team and the month we had. Today, in this moment, 10th is not what we came here for. But, in the big scheme of things, it is something to be happy about. I thought I was going to get it back the whole time. And that is what I am disappointed with.

“It was just a tough race – a great field of cars. We could have just made a couple of different decisions that could have changed the outcome. But I’m to blame for that. We probably thought we were a little bit better than we were, and at the end we just didn’t have what it took.”

RHR’s 26 laps in the lead and Andretti’s 31 is an indicator of how competitive both drivers were, yet the duo climbed out of their cars feeling somewhat despondent to miss out on the victory.

“That’s just the way it works out,” said RHR. “That was bad luck. We were leading on that last restart. 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. There was a crash in Turn 1 and the race ended. It’s unfortunate. Big congratulations to Tony (Kanaan), though.”

Andretti echoed his teammate’s sentiment.

“I think when we went for the (low-downforce) trim, we were kinda in the worst case scenario; we got shuffled back behind the teammates,” he said. “Carlos (Munoz) is a tough one to follow – but he drove a heck of a race. Congratulations to Tony Kanaan. Thanks to the RC Cola crew for giving me a great car for the entire month.”

Carlos Munoz, who i reckoned was a bit too fast and wild to finish, proved me wrong throughout the race, taking a mightily impressive second in his first 500.

“I really wanted to fight for the win,” said the young Colombian. “Maybe I could win. 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 is a great job. At the beginning I was a little bit nervous with the pit stops, but in the end, the car was great, and it’s a good second place. Hopefully in the future, I will be able to drink milk.

“Right now I’m thirsty, but hopefully it’s in the future for me. I think I had a great car and a great shot to overtake (Tony Kanaan) on the front straight. But you never know. He did a great job.”

Allmendinger’s chances of winning on his Indy 500 debut came unraveled along with his safety harness when the former Champ Car driver was forced to pit while leading to have one of his lap belts reconnected. A stall in the pits robbed Viso’s shot at a top finish and Power, who bolted into the lead on lap 31 and again on Lap 75, had a refueling issue sink his hopes of winning the 500.

Allmendinger would finish seventh, Viso 18th and Power was one spot behind in 19th.

“The first issue was I was sissy on the start,” said Allmendinger, who dropped from fifth to well into the teens. “That might have been the worst Indy 500 start ever. I went from like fifth to 20th in one lap. I’ll be ready next time. After that, it took me about 40 laps to settle down. We kind of missed the gearing a little bit. We were hitting the rev limiter in sixth (gear) the whole time. Once the yellow came out, I kind of calmed down and thought about what I needed to do to get around these guys. Once I figured it out, the IZOD Chevy was just a missile.

“It was almost too easy at times just to go by the guys. It was probably the coolest feeling in my life to take the lead at Indy and lead the Indy 500. That’s a feeling I’ll never forget.”

He also joked about the seat belt issue that turned his day upside down.

“I guess it’s God’s way of saying, ‘Maybe you’re not going to win it your first time.’ But leading the race, I went down into Turn 1. I mean, it was 130 laps in, so it wasn’t like they were loose or anything, and it just popped out. Maybe it was because my heart was beating too hard from leading the race. But it came undone.”

Behind Allmendinger in seventh, Schmidt Hamilton’s Simon Pagenaud delivered a mature and measured driver, earning eighth after starting 21st and placing the second Honda inside the top 10.

“We were able to run as high as fourth at some point,” said the Frenchman. “I wish I would have been there at the end. I could have been more aggressive. I’m very happy with this. The Schmidt team was awesome. The engine also was fantastic. It was a great recovery from 21 (starting position). It’s a short race, and you have to be so aggressive for 200 laps. Sometimes it was a bit hairy on some race restarts.

“I adjusted to balance for what we needed at the end of the race. We expected a fast race. The air density was so strong, so we could run less downforce. We were on our toes every lap. I feel tired now. You had to be very smart with your timing to make a pass. The crew worked hard day and night. I was very comfortable. I have more confidence, and I have a baseline setup for next year.”

LONG DAYS 

Ganassi Racing’s strong Carb Day performance turned out to be one-day engagement. Defending race winner Dario Franchitti and teammate Scott Dixon flirted with the top 10 on occasion, but ran between 15th and 20th more often than was expected. Dixie would cross the line in 14th while Franchitti would clout the wall on Lap 197, bringing out the final caution.

“Sums up our day,” said the Scot. “Our car was never really good all day. In traffic, we couldn’t make anything happen. It was loose in the middle, big understeer. The guys tried something, and we didn’t take tires. I was just going backward, sliding around on those old tires. I went into the first corner on the last restart, and it just didn’t turn and then the hit. A big old hit.

“When I saw who was leading (Kanaan), it cheered me up a little bit. Great, just phenomenal that Tony won. We had a crap day. We were never in contention, but I’m just so happy he won. He’s a very, very deserving winner.”

Andretti’s James Hinchcliffe was the only member of the squad to struggle, settling for 21st after nearly hitting the wall on at least two occasions.

“It was a bad day all around,” he said. “I feel bad for my teammates. They were running right at the front there, and that yellow may have cost them a chance at the win. There’s nothing really to say about our day. It was a non-factor. We were a non-event. I’m really disappointed.

LOWERED EXPECTATIONS

Panther Racing’s JR Hildebrand was the first car out of the 2013 Indy 500 on Lap 4 after completing a solo spin and crash in Turn 1 after passing James Hinchcliffe around the outside.

“We just got loose,” said the 2011 Indy 500 runner up. “I was trying to give Hinchcliffe a little bit of clean air so I didn’t chop down on him in Turn 1. Really disappointed.”

Dragon Racing’s Sebastian Saavedra was next to smack the wall, folding over the right front wheel along the Turn 3/4 short chute on Lap 36.

Schmidt Peterson Racing’s Katherine Legge made contact with her right rear corner, requiring a seven-lap stop to replace a bent toe link.

Dale Coyne Racing’s Pippa Mann was livid after being moved behind the car of Graham Rahal for the Lap 44 restart and got bunched up, resulting in a race-ending trip into the wall.

“My mistake, because I’m inexperienced around here but I’m furious,” she said.

Alex Tagliani was primed to be the first Honda car home, but a brush with the wall on lap 168 and the necessary suspension repairs to get him going again left him in 24th.

Sebastien Bourdais had possibly the oddest accident of the day on Lap 178, smacking the left side pit wall after locking his brakes while preparing to make his final stop. With locked brakes pulling him left, the left front suspension and wing were broken in an instant.

“I tried too hard on the pit in and lost the back of the car,” he said.”

Graham Rahal spoiled an uninterrupted run to the finish with a solo crash on Lap 194, getting loose exiting Turn 2 which led to a spin and hitting the inside barrier.

Franchitti closed out the crashing with his solo incident that sealed Kanaan’s win on Lap 197.

INDIANAPOLIS – Results Sunday of the Indianapolis 500 Mile Race IZOD IndyCar Series event on the 2.5 mile , with order of finish, starting position in parentheses, driver, chassis-engine, laps completed and reason out (if any):

1. (12) Tony Kanaan, Dallara-Chevy, 200, Running
2. (2) Carlos Munoz, Dallara-Chevy, 200, Running
3. (7) Ryan Hunter-Reay, Dallara-Chevy, 200, Running
4. (3) Marco Andretti, Dallara-Chevy, 200, Running
5. (14) Justin Wilson, Dallara-Honda, 200, Running
6. (8) Helio Castroneves, Dallara-Chevy, 200, Running
7. (5) AJ Allmendinger, Dallara-Chevy, 200, Running
8. (21) Simon Pagenaud, Dallara-Honda, 200, Running
9. (19) Charlie Kimball, Dallara-Honda, 200, Running
10. (1) Ed Carpenter, Dallara-Chevy, 200, Running
11. (13) Oriol Servia, Dallara-Chevy, 200, Running
12. (23) Ryan Briscoe, Dallara-Honda, 200, Running
13. (18) Takuma Sato, Dallara-Honda, 200, Running
14. (16) Scott Dixon, Dallara-Honda, 200, Running
15. (29) Ana Beatriz, Dallara-Honda, 200, Running
16. (28) Tristan Vautier, Dallara-Honda, 200, Running
17. (24) Simona De Silvestro, Dallara-Chevy, 200, Running
18. (4) EJ Viso, Dallara-Chevy, 200, Running
19. (6) Will Power, Dallara-Chevy, 200, Running
20. (20) James Jakes, Dallara-Honda, 199, Running
21. (9) James Hinchcliffe, Dallara-Chevy, 199, Running
22. (31) Conor Daly, Dallara-Honda, 198, Running
23. (17) Dario Franchitti, Dallara-Honda, 197, Contact
24. (11) Alex Tagliani, Dallara-Honda, 196, Running
25. (26) Graham Rahal, Dallara-Honda, 193, Contact
26. (33) Katherine Legge, Dallara-Honda, 193, Running
27. (22) Townsend Bell, Dallara-Chevy, 192, Running
28. (25) Josef Newgarden, Dallara-Honda, 191, Running
29. (15) Sebastien Bourdais, Dallara-Chevy, 178, Contact
30. (30) Pippa Mann, Dallara-Honda, 46, Contact
31. (32) Buddy Lazier, Dallara-Chevy, 44, Mechanical
32. (27) Sebastian Saavedra, Dallara-Chevy, 34, Contact
33. (10) JR Hildebrand, Dallara-Chevy, 3, Contact

Race Statistics

Winners average speed: 187.433
Time of Race: 02:40:03.4181
Margin of victory: Under Caution
Cautions: 5 for 21 laps
Lead changes: 68 among 14 drivers

Lap Leaders:

Carpenter 1 – 8
Kanaan 9
Carpenter 10 – 12
Kanaan 13 – 14
Andretti 15 – 16
Kanaan 17 – 20
Andretti 21 – 22
Kanaan 23
Andretti 24 – 26
Kanaan 27 – 28
Andretti 29
Hunter-Reay 30
Power 31 – 32
Jakes 33 – 37
Carpenter 38 – 42
Andretti 43
Carpenter 44 – 50
Andretti 51 – 53
Carpenter 54 – 58
Hunter-Reay 59 – 60
Andretti 61
Hunter-Reay 62 – 63
Carpenter 64 – 72
Kanaan 73 – 74
Power 75 – 88
Kanaan 89
Viso 90
Munoz 91 – 92
Kanaan 93 – 97
Allmendinger 98 – 111
Kanaan 112
Andretti 113 – 114
Kanaan 115 – 120
Hunter-Reay 121
Munoz 122
Tagliani 123
Bell 124
Hinchcliffe 125
Andretti 126 – 130
Hunter-Reay 131
Viso 132 – 135
Hunter-Reay 136
Allmendinger 137 – 142
Hunter-Reay 143 – 144
Castroneves 145
Andretti 146 – 150
Hunter-Reay 151
Munoz 152 – 154
Dixon 155
Hinchcliffe 156 – 157
Hunter-Reay 158 – 164
Allmendinger 165 – 167
Andretti 168
Hunter-Reay 169
Andretti 170
Hunter-Reay 171
Andretti 172 – 173
Kanaan 174
Andretti 175
Kanaan 176 – 177
Munoz 178
Andretti 179
Munoz 180 – 184
Hinchcliffe 185 – 188
Kanaan 189
Hunter-Reay 190
Kanaan 191 – 192
Hunter-Reay 193 – 197
Kanaan 198 – 200

Point Standings: Andretti 168, Sato 157, Castroneves 152, Hunter-Reay 138, Hinchcliffe 128, Wilson 125, Kanaan 124, Dixon 122, Servia 112, Pagenaud 108.