This year’s Indianapolis 500 was a fiercely competitive race with 14 drivers leading at least one lap and a long line of cars snaking along in pursuit of the leader. Polewinner Ed Carpenter led the opening laps before Tony Kanaan, Marco Andretti and Ryan Hunter-Reay established themselves as the leading contenders. Hunter-Reay looked the strongest as the race wound down, but Kanaan was able to seize the lead at a late restart.
The final restart came with three laps to go and Kanaan pounced immediately, diving inside leader Hunter-Reay on the run into the first turn with talented young Colombian rookie Carlos Muñoz following him through. But as the field rocketed through the first turn Dario Franchitti lost control and clouted the wall, bringing out another yellow. With that, the race was over and both Kanaan and KV Racing had their long-sought first wins at Indianapolis.
It took Kanaan 12 years to win the Indy 500. He’s been racing Indycars since 1998 and started his first Indy 500 in 2002. He’s led eight of the 12 500s he’s started, finishing second in 2004 and third in 2003 and 2012. He also won the IRL championship in ’04. After eight years with Michael Andretti’s team the Brazilian joined Kevin Kalkhoven and Jimmy Vasser’s KV Racing Technology outfit in 2011.
Kanaan qualified 12th at Indianapolis this year and was in the hunt all the way, taking the lead for the first time on lap eight and leading no fewer than 15 times for a total of 34 of the 200 laps. “We had a great car,” Kanaan said. “I knew that from the get-go. We had a great plan and it was one of those days. Everything was so smooth. Jimmy [Vasser] was calm and I was calm. I felt that everything was under control, but in the 11 [previous] times I’ve been here I had the same thing.
“When there were six laps to go and I wasn’t in the lead I said, ‘Today might be the day.’ I knew I had to get the lead on the restart. Today, the yellow was my best friend. It was very special. I never had any doubt I could win this thing. There were many times when I thought I could do it and today it worked.”
Muñoz did an excellent job to finish second in his first IndyCar race. He ran with the leaders all the way and led the 500 five times for a dozen laps. He was in third place for the final restart and stole second on the run into the first turn. Muñoz was a unanimous winner of the 500’s rookie of the year award.
The race was the fastest Indy 500 ever run with Kanaan averaging 187.433mph (2hrs 40min 03.4181 sec), breaking Arie Luyendyk’s previous record from 1990. Gordon Kirby