BY DEAN HOCKNEY
SPEEDWAY, Ind. – It will go down as one of the most exciting Indianapolis 500 mile races in its illustrious 97-year history. With rain on the radar, fan favorite Tony Kanaan crossed the famed yard of bricks under a crash-induced yellow flag to claim his first Borg Warner Trophy.
“I don’t know what to say; that was the longest lap of my life,” said Kanaan from the winner’s circle. “This is it; I made it!”
The final 12 laps are why the Indianapolis Motor Speedway is the most famous racetrack in the world.
Defending IZOD IndyCar Series champion Ryan Hunter-Reay took the race lead on lap 188, but was passed by Kanaan the next time around. Hunter-Reay regained the lead on turn three only to see Kanaan steak past him on lap 191. HRH roared to the front in turn one of lap 192 and the two battled until Graham Rahal hit the inside wall after spinning in turn two on lap 194 to bring out the caution.
On the lap 197 restart, Hunter-Reay and Kanaan were joined by Carlos Munoz three-wide down the front stretch, with Kanaan edging the field into the first turn. But behind the threesome, defending Indy 500 champion Dario Franchitti, a three-time champ, lost control in turn one and hit the inside wall in the short chute, giving Kanaan the win.
“I got a little bit of luck today,” said Kanaan. “I couldn’t believe it. Two laps to go. That last lap was the longest ever. I wanted the pace car to hurry up.”
Kanaan has long been a favorite of Indianapolis fans due to his out-going personality – and hard luck. This was his first win in 12 starts, and he did it with torn ligaments in his right thumb.
“This one was for the fans,” said Kanaan. “It’s for my dad that’s not here. But mainly it is (for the fans). I was looking at the stands, and it was unbelievable. I’m speechless.”
Rookie Carlos Munoz finished second after starting from the middle of the front row. Despite the runner-up finish, he was not happy.
“I should be happy, but I thought I should win this thing,” said Munoz. “The car was so great from the first lap to the last. I was more sad because I had a shot to overtake and fight for the win.”
Hunter-Reay finished third, Andretti fourth and Justin Wilson fifth. HRH agreed with the race winner that luck played into the finish.
“That was bad luck,” said Hunter-Reay. “That’s just the way it works out. I was leading on the last restart and I knew I was a sitting duck. I wasn’t too bummed out about it because I knew we had enough laps to get it going again. Then there was a crash in turn one, and the race ended,. It’s unfortunate. Big congratulations to Tony Kanaan.”
Three-time winner Helio Castroneves took home a sixth place finish, rookie A.J. Allmendinger finished seventh, Simon Pagenaud eighth, Charlie Kimball ninth and pole sitter Ed Carpenter rounded out the top 10.
“We finished in the top six, which is great championship-wise for points and that is what we are looking for,” said Castroneves. “When you don’t win, you have to look on the positive side, and that is the championship.”
Despite wrecks to start and end the race – J.R. Hildenbrand on lap three and Franchitti on lap 198 – it was a blistering, record-setting Greatest Spectacle in Racing. The Field of 33 thrilled fans with 68 lead changes and an average speed of 187.433 miles per hour, both are Indy 500 records. For reference, the previous lead change record was 34 set in 2012 and the previous fastest race was set in 1990 by Arie Luyendyk at 185.981.
Carpenter led the most laps with 37, followed by Kanaan with 34 and Andretti with 31. Wilson clocked the fastest lap of the race, topping out at 226.940. The fastest leader lap was driven by rookie Munoz at 223.651.
But in the end, it was Kanaan who everyone was talking about.