Do you remember the 18 years that All My Children star Susan Lucci was nominated for the Outstanding Lead Actress Emmy, but left the theatre like a jilted bride every single time before finally snagging the trophy, launching the show’s happiest/sappiest acceptance speech and getting the rowdiest audience atta girl ever on her 19th nod? Okay, maybe not you, but perhaps your wife or mother does. Anyway, we’re betting that Tony Kanaan was sweating a little of that same lady-in-waiting feeling while at the starting line of this weekend’s Indianapolis 500 for his 11th time. Little did he know, his wait was over.
After more than a decade of gunning for the Indy 500 finish line, Kanaan finally crossed it first, serving up a dramatic performance and officially ditching his dubious title of the “best current driver never to win an Indy 500.” And what a win it was! Sunday’s race arguably was the most exciting and contentious event in Indy 500 history. The race boasted 68 lead changes – double last year’s record of 34. Green-flag racing lasted an astonishing 133 straight laps from Lap 61 to 193 – the longest green-flag period in the race’s history since caution-flag laps were recorded in 1976. There were only five cautions for 21 laps in the 200-lap contest. And it was the fastest Indy 500 of all time, with competitors hitting an average speed of 187.433 mph.
But the real story was Kanaan, who drove hard despite torn ligaments in his thumb. The popular hard-luck driver was a favorite to win the event known as The Greatest Spectacle in Racing among fans, and even among a few of his competitors. He drew the loudest cheer from the stands during the driver introductions. And when it became clear that the Brazilian racer’s face would be the 100th etched onto the Borg-Warner Trophy, the crowd truly lost all composure.
“I never had a doubt I could win this thing,” Kanaan said. “Today it worked… I’m glad I’m on the other side and I can put my big nose on that trophy.”
“TK is such a fan favorite,” added competitor Ryan Hunter-Reay, who took third place. “He’s a great guy, a great teammate, great friend of mine. Yeah, absolutely, it’s great to see him win it. If anybody is going to win it in the field, he’s one of the few I’d like to see other than myself.”
Carlos Munoz took second. Mario Andretti and Justin Wilson took fourth and fifth. Three-time Indy 500 winner Helio Castroneves finished sixth and Team Penske teammate and first-time Indy 500 competitor placed seventh. Simon Pagenaud, Charlie Kimball and Ed Carpenter rounded out the top 10.
From all of us here at E3 Spark Plugs, congratulations, Tony Kanaan!