INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – The heartbreak is over. After all the years of frustration, Tony Kanaan is at last an Indy 500 champion.
Yes, Kanaan won under caution, but that was the only blemish on an otherwise exceptional afternoon, both for Kanaan and for the Indy 500 in general. Kanaan ran a near-flawless race, punctuated by a last-minute pass of Ryan Hunter-Reay on the final green flag to guarantee himself the win.
"Thank you, thank you, thank you," he said over his radio as he crossed the finish line.
Rookie Carlos Munoz started second and finished second, followed by Hunter-Reay, Marco Andretti and Justin Wilson. Helio Castroneves and Dario Franchitti were both bidding for a record-tying fourth Indy win, but Castroneves finished sixth and Franchitti 23rd.
The story for much of the race was AJ Allmendinger, the Indy rookie who had jumped to the sport after a failed NASCAR drug test. But a seatbelt issue cost him time and the lead. Still, this was one of the most competitive Indy 500s in recent memory, with no clear favorite and plenty of passing throughout. The race featured more than 70 lead changes, a record, and provided the Izod IndyCar Series with a much-needed boost of publicity.
But the day, and the race, belonged to the 38-year-old Kanaan, who lifted his left arm in triumph as he crossed the finish line, and then wept openly as first the victor's wreath encircled his neck. This was his 12th attempt at Indy, never finishing better than second despite leading laps in eight (now nine) of those races. After so many years, the race that's every open-wheeler's dream was at last his.
-Follow Jay Busbee on Twitter at @jaybusbee.-
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