Indianapolis, Ind. – Tony Kanaan raced to victory in the thrilling 97th edition of the Indianapolis 500. And the win for the popular drive came in his 12th Indianapolis 500 and 201st consecutive IZOD IndyCar Series race. While the race ended under the caution flag, the fans were treated to a highly competitive for the first 197 laps.

Victory lane and the post-race celebration activities were very exciting, and it was obvious from the outpouring that Kanaan’s win was very popular with fans and fellow competitors.

The race was run on an unseasonably cool and overcast day with the temperature 30 degrees cooler than the 92 degree mark of a year ago.

Records tumbled throughout the high-speed contest, ranging from the fastest 500 ever run at 187.433 miles per hour (previous record of 185.981 mph in 1990 by Arie Luyendyk); to 68 lead changes erasing the record of 34 of a year ago to 14 race leaders, which bested 12 in 1993.

Four caution flags slowed the race for 21 laps with two of them occurring in the final six laps. One by Graham Rahal and the last one by Dario Franchitti.

Race winner Tony Kanaan kisses the bricks
Race winner Tony Kanaan kisses the bricks

Photo by: Kenneth May

“I don’t know where to start,” Kanaan said in the post-race interview. “My car was very good, and it was one of those days where everything was so smooth. No one was yelling, and we felt that everything was under control. But in the 11 previous times I have been here, I thought the same thing. With six laps to go, I said to myself, ‘This might be my day because I have been in this position many times.’

“But then on the restart, I knew I had to get the lead because it could be the end. How life is funny with the yellow being my best friend. I could see Dario (Franchitti) in the (crashed) car and once he got out, he was waving to me. It was so special. I never had a doubt that I could win this thing. This place is so special, and today it worked. This is the biggest win ever for me.

In victory lane while awash in the traditional milk drink, he said, “This milk tastes good. I can’t believe we finally did it. It’s ours now.”

The winner drove the Hydroxycut KV Racing Technology-SH Racing Chevrolet co-owned by Jimmy Vasser, Kevin Kalkhoven and Imran Safiulla.

“I never won this race as a driver and couldn’t seem to do so, so I had to hire a driver to do it,” Vasser said. “Tony is the consummate professional and he’s been a long time coming here. Starting a year ago, we decided to focus on Indy by taking a chassis and putting it aside. A lot of credit goes to the boys, who have worked very hard over the winter. Tony was right, ‘the stars started lining up for us,’ and we didn’t really get a race set-up until last Sunday with two hours to go and within 45 minutes, we hit on it. We knew we had the right guy and the right set-up for the race.”

Leading up to the finish, Kanaan, Ryan Hunter-Reay, Marco Andretti and 21-year old rookie Carlos Munoz had the large crowd on its feet as the drivers waged an intense battle, a fight that stopped momentarily when Rahal crashed with six laps to go and for good when 2012 winner Franchitti crashed.

For the restart on lap 197, Kanaan forged into the lead as the tightly bunched field raced into the first turn with Munoz, Hunter-Reay and Andretti close behind and finishing in that order.

In taking the win, Kanaan led 34 laps with fast qualifiers Ed Carpenter on top with 37 lead laps.

Munoz and Hunter-Reay were hoping the race would finish under the green flag, as they thought their chances for victory were strong.

Said Munoz, “I really wanted to fight for the win. Maybe I could win and maybe not, but I really wanted to fight. I have nothing to be ashamed of. To be second and a rookie and the best of the team (Andretti Autosport) is a great job. Hopefully, in the future, I will be able to drink the milk.”

About the race, he added, “At the beginning I was a little bit nervous with the pit stops and a lot of people overtook me. But I was patient and one by one I went back to the front. The last two pit stops, the guys and me, we did a great job to not lose any position. But in the end, the car was great. On that last yellow flag, I thought I had a shot to win, as the car was awesome from the first lap to the last one.”

He drove Unistraw Chevrolet, one of five cars from Andretti Autosport.

Hunter-Reay finished a disappointing third but he did express pleasure with seeing his friend Kanaan win.

Race start
Race start

Photo by: Kenneth May

“It was awesome running up front all day and having the car to put you there,” he commented. “I could just put it where I wanted to and pass when I wanted to. We were just kind of biding our time. The frustrating part is we were quick enough and I saw (near the end) that we had traffic coming up and I thought, ‘This is great. If I can get in lapped traffic, I can distance myself because our car was great in the traffic.’

“But right as I was getting the tow from traffic, the yellow came out. We were leading and the rest is history. When you’re leading up front, especially on a restart, you might as well be driving a bulldozer, everybody can come on by. I figured we would have been shuffled back to four or more on the restart, so I’m actually happy with third.”

Andretti also was disappointed with the end result - fourth. “When we stopped for a trim adjustment, we were in the worst-case scenario, getting stuck behind some teammates,” he said. “It was fun for a while, but we just got shuffled back.”

He led 31 laps.

Justin Wilson took fifth, giving Honda its best finish.

Sixth through 10th were Helio Castroneves (Chevrolet), A. J. Allmendinger (Chevrolet), Simon Pagenaud (Honda), Charlie Kimball (Honda) and pole winner Ed Carpenter (Chevrolet).

Honda drivers and former winners Scott Dixon and Franchitti were 14th and 23rd, respectively.

As Franchitti sat in his wrecked car at the end, he said he was pleased to see his friend Kanaan in the lead. “It is great, just phenomenal that Tony won.”

At the end, 26 cars were running.

A week from now, the IndyCar Series returns to the street course at Belle Isle Park in of Detroit.