What A Race!

I’ve been coming here for a lot of years, and I’m not sure I’ve come away from a race happier than I am today with Tony Kanaan finally winning the Indianapolis 500. When Dan Wheldon won in 2011, it was a feel-good story of a small one-off effort beating the big teams – but Wheldon already had a Indianapolis 500 win in his back pocket, In all candor, Tony Kanaan’s window was starting to close. At 38, one had to wonder how many more good opportunities he was going to get.

Not many gave him much of a shot in this race – except for yours truly, of course (sorry, I had to get that in). He was starting twelfth and was relatively quiet all month. In all honesty, my pick was based partly on logic but also on sentiment. I liked his chances on the start. I felt like with him starting on the outside, he would do one of his patented moves and he would pass several cars by the completion of lap One – assuming the start was clean. It was and he did. If I’m not mistaken (and I may be), he passed five cars and moved to seventh on the first lap (maybe the second). Yesterday morning during the driver’s meeting, I was talking to someone very close to Kanaan, who told me that “it is a very good sign that Tony isn’t complaining about the car. When he says nothing – that’s good.” Apparently, he had reason to not complain. He was in the top-five all day long.

The race was back and forth all day long. There were sixty-eight lead changes – shattering last year’s record of thirty four. A total of fourteen different drivers led the race. Many led, but then fell back out of realistic contention – such as Will Power who finished nineteenth, EJ Viso who ended up eighteenth and pole-sitter Ed carpenter who led the most laps (thirty-seven) but finished tenth. The race was contested all day between Kanaan, Ryan Hunter-Reay, Marco Andretti and sometimes AJ Allmendinger and Carlos Muñoz. There were times when I was convinced Kanaan would win, but I also thought it would go to Hunter-Reay or Andretti at times. Any of the three would have been deserving. Had it remained green, there is no telling what kind of finish we would have seen.

As it was, fate stepped in. Shortly after Kanaan passed Hunter-Reay on a re-start on Lap 198, Dario Franchitti smacked the Turn Two wall. Out came the yellow, pretty much assuring Tony kanaan of fulfilling his lifelong dream of becoming an Indianapolis 500 champion.

While many in the crowd were pulling for Ed carpenter or Marco Andretti – you’d be hard-pressed to find someone who wasn’t happy with this victory. Tony Kanaan has more than paid his dues. He finished second here in 2004. He has led in nine of his twelve races here. He has had some hard hits in this race and has had heartbreak here as well. There have been times when he was leading late but gave up the lead due to fuel miscalculations. You know he wondered if he would ever win here, and most fans did too. He admitted in his post-race news conference that he was beginning to resign himself to the fact that he may never win. He said he tried to convince himself that he was OK with that. But now that he has realized his dream – he is extremely happy.

It took Tony Kanaan twelve starts to get his first win here. That’s not a record, but it’s up there. Three-time winner Johnny Rutherford finally won in his eleventh start. Sam Hanks won in his thirteenth. Kanaan was in danger of being forever mentioned in conversations with names like Michael Andretti, Lloyd Ruby, Ted Horn and Rex Mays – some of the greatest drivers to have never won the Indianapolis 500. His name will never be in that conversation again. For the rest of his life, his name will always come after the words ”Indianapolis 500 winner”.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA I remain pretty stoic most of the time while I watch this race, but I have to admit – I got chills watching Tony Kanaan cross the finish line on Lap Two-Hundred. I know how much it means to him and I know how much this means to his fans. This place owes nothing to anyone, and it owed Tony Kanaan nothing. But you have to feel good – as close as he’s come and the heartache he’s endured here – he was finally able to close the deal.

Casual fans will complain that IndyCar should adopt a green-white-checker format. Please. That cheapens many of the ninety-seven races that have already been won here. Race strategy is built around five-hundred miles – not five-hundred and five…or more. All three of Dario Franchitti’s wins have come under the yellow. Three of the last four Indianapolis 500’s have been completed under the caution. This is a race – it’s not entertainment. Leave that to other series that appeal mainly to the lowest common denominator. After the frenetic pace we saw all day, I have no problem at all with the race finishing under caution. End of discussion.

I am anxious to get back home and watch the DVR. I may be able to watch the local delayed tonight at the hotel, but I usually fall asleep during that before Lap Thirty. I’m hoping that the excitement we felt in the stands translated well to television. The speed on the track is never captured on television, but hopefully the drama and excitement translated. To use a way overused cliché, this one was one for the ages. Sometimes clichés apply. This is one of those times.

George Phillips

13 Responses to “What A Race!”

  1. madtad1 Says:

    It was an awesome race and Always Bad Coverage managed to live down to my expectations again. I would give their coverage a B-, at best. No mention that Lazier was out, much less why or any video. They started to interview Pippa, but cut away for Sato’s spin, then never went back to her or explained why she was out. They showed Saavadra’s wreck, played his audio of “someone needs to penalty”, showed a mysterious car that caused said wreck, and then never went any further with it. No word on a protest, no word on who did it, etc.

    They did do an ok job of showing the passing throughout the race, without totally focusing up front. Their post-race was the usual disgrace with 30 seconds of celebration disturbing their 4 minutes of commercials, rinse, repeat.

    On the other hand, their opening segment was very good, and had given me hopes that the race coverage might be good…well, I can dream…

  2. Ron Ford Says:

    Like so many fans, I am very happy for TK. I am not sure he could have held off the Andretti bunch, but it would have been a dog fight. Perhaps there is an Andretti curse there.

    I thought the pre-race and race TV coverage was good. I am one who prefers a somewhat understated approach by the TV announcers, as opposed to the screaming style of the announcer for the single-file, boring Monaco race. Let the race action do the talking.

    And so the countdown begins………..364 more days………sigh:(

    Have a safe trip home George. Get a tenderloin to go.

  3. ABC did leave questions unanswered about what happened to the early outs, but what a race that was! it is the first time I have ever seen the race live on TV and I was on the edge of my seat. I saw my first 500 ever in person 50 years ago in 1963. the only Indy 500 race car I have ever been in is the 1963 winner. Tony got back his luck charm before the race. It’s interesting how things sometimes come together around an auto race.

  4. Having been at the track today, the atmosphere and enthusiasm of the spectators were electifying with the spectators standing on their feet the last thirty laps.

    Words cannot describe the welcome realization that Tony has finally been able to place his well deserved mark in racing history books.

    No longer should Tony have to seek his own financial sponsorship.


  5. hadrianmarcus Says:

    Totally glad about Tony Kanaan’s win, impressed by the rookie performances of Carlos Munoz and AJ Allmendinger, and a bit surprised by the number of empty seats in many of ABC’s camera shots.

    I hope the series can capitalize on the quality of their product this year. The racing has been fantastic this year.

  6. timnothhelfer Says:

    Loved the race. I hate the idea racing needs a yellow white checkered. Great day for INDYCAR.

  7. Steve K Says:

    I really find it funny this race played out just like a NASCAR plate track does. It makes the paranoid IndyCar fan look the part of a fool. It was a very entertaining race but I find it very stupid they finish these races under yellow. Last year was on the final lap and it was fine, but this race ended very anticlimactically. What a shame. Is winning a BigTen conference any less significant with 11, 12, or 14 teams in it? 500 is just a number. Give me an attempt at a green finish.

    • Absolutely no!. Do not extend races beyond the scheduled distance. I would have preferred a green flag battle to the checkered flag, but everyone calculated fuel and tires based on 500 miles. Kanaan has been caught out by yellows several times, this time he benefited. Leave this rule alone!

    • Jim Gallo Says:

      NO GWC finishes in IndyCar and especially the 500!!
      Those finishes are so bogus and have no reality behind them.
      Please do not change.

  8. Christopher Says:

    Kanaan finally fielded a non-green car … and he finally wins.

  9. Ahhh the spirit of Indy. Drivers in the lead hitting the brakes at the end of the straight to force someone else to take the lead.

    The Indy 125 was great. The other 375 miles were an insult to everyone who died trying to lead or win this race.

  10. Doug in Indy Says:

    Once again spot on. No GWC. The race is 500 miles if it brings entertainment then great, but it is a contest not a show. That race number 47 for me and very good and entertaining

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