Wildly Popular Kanaan Wins Indy 500

story and photos by Tim Hailey

Indy fan favorite Tony Kanaan foists his fist after finally winning the Big One

Brazilian Tony Kanaan has been a fan favorite ever since he first turned a wheel at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Whether it’s his cartoonish good looks, his great sense of humor, his good sportsmanship, or what was until today his hard luck story—whatever it is, the fans here adore him. And so the huge crowd—some drunk, some sober—cheered wildly despite a race finishing under caution, because their man TK was in the lead.

And this, mind you, was a race that more than DOUBLED the previous record number of lead changes. The 68 switches at the point was well beyond last year’s record 34. When the track went green with 4 laps to go following a crash, Kanaan made the crucial, front straightaway restart pass on IndyCar champion Ryan Hunter-Reay for the lead before the yellow flag came out again for a crash involving 3X winner Dario Franchitti.

“We had a great car,” said Kanaan. “I knew that from the get-go. We had a great plan. I mean, it’s one of those days, man. Everything was so smooth. Jimmy (car owner Vassar) was calm. I was calm. Nobody yelling, anything. I felt it was everything under control.

“But I had 11 times that I’ve been here the same thing. So when it was six laps to go, went yellow, I wasn’t in the lead, I said, This might be the day, today might be the day, because I was in Ryan’s position plenty of times. I knew I had to get the lead on the restart because it could be a yellow, which happened to me plenty of times here, and it did. How life is funny. The yellow was my best friend (this time).

“I never had a doubt I could win this thing. I talked about it many times that I could do it or not, but this place is still going to be special. Today it worked.”

Brazil native Kanaan, who started 12th, set a record winning speed of 187.433 mph, breaking the previous mark of 185.981 set by Arie Luyendyk in 1990. Kanaan won “The Greatest Spectacle in Racing” for the first time in 12 career starts, tying an event record for earning a victory latest in a driver’s Indy 500 career. The other driver to win the race for the first time in his 12th career start was Sam Hanks in 1957.

Was having a picture taken for Eatmyink the good luck charm that car owner Kevin Kalkhoven needed to win?

Brad Keselowski soaking in the Greatest Spectacle in Racing working the night shift in Charlotte

Ladies and gentlemen, Daaaaa-viiiiiiid Letterman

Morgan and Katie Lucas ponder the thought of driving around corners

Penske Team Manager Tim Cincric at least LOOKED confident before the start

Honorary Governor of Indiana and all things racing, Forrest Lucas

Former IMS, IRL, and Vision Racing boss Tony George is all smiles on race morning

The National Guard team getting amped up for the start

It’s a long way from the last row to the front

Polesitter Ed Carpenter leads fellow front row mates Carlo Munoz and Marco Andretti

Rookie Munoz drove an aggressive race to finish second

In the first IZOD IndyCar Series race of his career, Carlo Munoz, of Colombia, qualified second and finished second in his No. 26 Unistraw Chevrolet for Andretti Autosport. Munoz was voted the winner of the prestigious Chase Rookie of the Year Award.
Munoz, who owns two Firestone Indy Lights wins this season and finished fourth in the Firestone Freedom 100 on Friday, May 24, earned $964,205, which included a $25,000 bonus from Chase.

James Hinchcliffe struggled all day, riding high in the turns and underpowered—unlike all the other Chevys

“It was a bad day all around,” said James Hinchcliffe, who finished 21st waaaaay behind his Andretti Auttosport teammates. “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. There was something that was making us slow. The car was handling fine. The engineers did a good job. The guys were smoking in the pit stops. But in a race where first through 20th were all on the same straightaway, if you’ve got something that’s making you a tiny bit slow in a straight line, you’re done. It was 500 long miles, and I’m pretty embarrassed with our performance.”

Indy rookie but race veteran AJ Allmendinger led for a spell before pitting with a loose seatbelt

Former winner Scott Dixon, going wide in turn 3, was never a factor all day and finished 14th

Kanaan gets set to pounce on Ryan Hunter-Reay at the restart, with Munoz, Andretti, Wilson and Castroneves

Is Kanaan rubbing famed IndyStar paperboy Chuck’s head for good luck next race in Detroit? PHOTOS

Kanaan earned $2,353,355 from an overall purse of $12,020,065 for his victory Sunday.