Indianapolis 500On an overcast and cool Sunday afternoon, Brazilian driver Tony Kanaan won the 97th running of the Indianapolis 500, in the most anti-climactic fashion imaginable.

In a race made notable by the record breaking numbers of lead changes and leaders, it was almost a cruel bit of teasing to spectators that the race should be finished under caution after Graham Rahal’s crash with eight laps remaining was supposed to set up a shoot out between six cars for the final three laps. What no driver could’ve known was how important the restart following this caution would be, as Kanaan managed to emerge ahead of Carlos Munoz and Ryan Hunter-Reay for the 68th and final lead change of the race.

Shortly after the KV Racing Technology driver took the lead, Dario Franchitti hit the wall and caused a caution to essentially end the race. Kanaan is a worthy winner, whose luck at the race track prior to today had been especially bad. Kanaan was largely thought of as being among the best IndyCar drivers to never win the race. His prior relationship with Andretti Racing overseen by Michael Andretti – who also had never won the famed race – was often cited as something of a curse for the popular driver.

Tony Kanaan’s Previous Misfortune At Indianapolis

2002: In his rookie year, Kanaan led 23 laps and was leading the race on lap 90, when Jimmy Vasser and Bruno Junqueira both slowed with mechanical problems. An oil leak on the racing line caused Kanaan to spin and crash in turn 3.

2003: Kanaan started second, led for two laps, but was no match for the Penske cars, who finished first and second in front of him.

2004: Kanaan ran among the leaders all day, and led 28 laps. Rain halted the race with 20 laps to give, never giving the Brazilian a chance to go for the lead.

2005: Kanaan won his first Indy 500 pole position, and led 54 laps. He was not a factor in the final 50 laps, and dropped to 8th place at the finish.

2006: Pit stop shuffling in the final 20 laps saw Kanaan inherit the lead on lap 183. Kanaan needed one final splash-and-go pit stop, but a caution came out on lap 191, causing him to lose the lead. Running 4th, Kanaan was blocked inadvertently by Michael Andretti, and lost his momentum at the end of the race.

2007: Kanaan was leading the race at the halfway point when rain brought out the red flag on lap 113. If the rain continued, Kanaan could have been declared the winner, since the race had passed the point in which it had become official. However, the rain stopped, and when the race was resumed, Kanaan came up on the back of Jaques Lazier during a restart, lost control, and spun into the entrance of the pits, blowing a tire.

2008: On lap 94, Kanaan set an all-time Indy 500 record by leading at least one lap in his first seven consecutive starts. The lead was short-lived however. On lap 105, Marco Andretti was trying to pass Kanaan in turn three, which sent Kanaan into the marbles. Kanaan lost control, crashed into the outside wall.

2009: On lap 98, while in third place, Tony Kanaan suffered a drive shaft failure at speed down the backstrech. The car suddenly pitched into the wall.

2010: On the morning of pole day, Kanaan spun out of turn 1, and wrecked hard in the south short chute. The crash prevented Kanaan from making a qualifying attempt on Saturday. On Bump Day, Kanaan was practicing in his backup car, when he suffered another, nearly identical crash. Despite the second crash, Kanaan managed to qualify, and started the race from the final row in 33rd place.

On race day, Kanaan charged to the front, and ran as high as second in the last ten laps of the race. However, a fuel strategy gamble failed, and Kanaan was forced to make an extra splash-and-go pit stop with 4 laps to go. The pit stop dropped him to 11th in the final standings.

2011: After qualifying 22nd and working his way up to 4th by lap 60, Kanaan was forced to overshoot his pit stall in a mishap with Pippa Mann. He charged back up to 2nd place by lap 178, but pitted for fuel with 21 laps to go, which dropped him to an eventual 4th place finish.

2012: On a restart on lap 186, Kanaan made a bold move going from 5th to 1st into turn one, and led for seven laps. With less than six laps to go, he was passed for the lead with six laps to go. He finished third.

… and now …

2013:

Indianapolis 500

Continued Excitement

There were six different leaders and 13 lead changes before the 35th lap. By lap 100, the race had seen a nine different leaders who had swapped first position amongst themselves 28 times. After 130 laps, there had been 45 lead changes, breaking the previous year’s record of 34 changes. The 14 different drivers who had completed a lap in the lead also broke a record set in 1993. In the end, there were 68 lead changes, doubling the previous high.

The Early Exit Award

J.R. Hildebrand crashed out on lap four when the Panther Racing driver had to adjust his line after failing to pass James Hinchcliffe on turn one.

The Oopsy-Daisys Of The Day

Ed Carpenter’s race almost finished in the most embarrassing fashion possible when he drove onto the grass while leading the race under caution during lap 40. He was trying to keep his tires warm by taking up as much track as possible, a strategy that is decidedly better employed during straight aways and not on turns.

The Redemptive Story Of The Race

It wouldn’t be accurate to suggest that A.J. Allmendinger leaving Champ Car in 2006 to compete in NASCAR forced the fading auto racing series to finally merge with the IndyCar series, but it could certainly be described as a nail in Champ Car’s coffin. Allmendinger had won five of his last nine races when he left the open-wheel circuit, and appeared to be one of the sport’s premier young drivers before signing a lucrative deal with NASCAR’s Team Red Bull.

After finding the adjustment difficult at first, Allmendinger was arrested for drunk driving in 2009. He continued to toil on the World Truck, Nationwide and Sprint Cup series before finally finding his groove on the Sprint Cup circuit in 2011. At the end of that season, Allmendinger left Richard Petty Motorsports to replace Kurt Busch with Penske Racing, and the sky appeared to be the limit.

Then, in July of 2012, Allmendinger tested positive for banned amphetamines which the driver claimed was the result of accidentally ingesting Adderall. This resulted in an indefinite suspension from NASCAR and his release from Penske Racing.

Despite having his contract terminated, Allmendinger participated in Team Penske’s IndyCar winter testing ahead of the 2013 season. It was later announced that Allmendinger would compete for Penske’s IndyCar team in at least two races, one of which being the Indianapolis 500.

After starting fifth on the grid, it became obvious that Allmendinger had one of the faster running cars on the day. He took the lead on the 98th lap, and looked to be among the favorites to take the checkered flag before a loose seat belt forced the driver to pit on green long before he would have had to otherwise. The early pit-stop changed the team’s strategy, and likely kept him back from a podium finish.

Quantity Over Quality

Rookie driver Marcos Munoz made his first career start at the Indianapolis 500 today, but it wasn’t his first competion at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Munoz competed in the Indy Lights Freedom 100 on Friday at the very same race track, and the finish was one of the most exciting you’re likely to see.

Although he missed out on the podium on Friday, the rookie would have a better finish to today’s race, coming in second.

The Other Finish

Indianapolis 500

Runners who participated in the 2013 Boston Marathon were invited to run down pit road prior to the race.

Comments (1)

  1. Kanaan was also racing with some lucky tokens:

    If I recall the stories somewhat correctly:

    1) Alex Zanardi, the former Indy driver who lost both legs in a crash several years ago (not in Indy Car), has since gone on to win two Gold medals at the Paralympics (I think in handcycle). He had Kanaan, a good friend from their days in Indy Car, rub his car with one of the gold medals before the race for good luck.

    2) Kanaan raced with a medallion in a pocket of his racing suit. He had given the medallion as a good luck charm to a young racing fan several years ago when the fan was undergoing treatment for a serious disease (a form of cancer, iirc). She survived the treatments and FedEx’ed the medallion back to Kanaan this week to return the good fortune that it had brought her.

    Touching stories about a good driver, and a better person.

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