Skip to content

Tony Kanaan rewards faith of Indy 500 fans

May 26, 2013, 5:42 PM EST

Indianapolis 500 Getty Images

As the heartbreaks grew for Tony Kanaan at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, so did the number of people that wanted to see him have his day.

It was overcast when Kanaan took the checkered flag this afternoon at the Brickyard and won his first Indianapolis 500 in his 12th attempt. But it might as well have been blue skies and sunshine for him and his loyal fans, which cheered as the Brazilian dueled for the lead throughout the race and when he took the point for good on the final restart of the day with three laps remaining.

When Dario Franchitti hit the wall shortly after Kanaan had grabbed the lead from Ryan Hunter-Reay, the caution came out and the celebration was on in the grandstands. The fastest “500” ever would end with one of its most popular winners ever.

The roar of the crowd reminded Kanaan of the applause he received in 2010, when he charged from 33rd all the way to the lead only to have to abandon second place with five laps to go in order to get fuel.

“The fans, they actually spoiled me a little bit on my win, because when I finished 11th here – starting dead last – I got out of the car and it was exactly the same [as winning],” said Kanaan. “So, I already had felt [that feeling] a little bit. Obviously, I hadn’t drank the milk, kissed the bricks, all that stuff.”

But now he has, and Kanaan remains gracious about being as well-respected as he is by the fans, saying that it had always “caught him by surprise.”

“I can’t walk out there [without being cheered] – I couldn’t before, I don’t know now, maybe it’ll get worse – the [500 Festival] parade, everywhere, it’s just unbelievable,” he said.  “It’s nice. I think wins are important, trophies are nice but what I’ll take forever is definitely this.”

His KV Racing Technology co-owner, 1996 CART champion Jimmy Vasser, also took note of how popular Kanaan’s win was – both on the drivers’ side and from the fans’ perspective.

“He’s a great leader and that’s why it’s such a popular victory – and it’s not just the drivers,” Vasser said. “I was blown away riding around in the pace car and virtually everybody was still in the stands chanting ‘TK, TK!’ It just shows the love that they had for him…It was phenomenal.”

Kanaan figures that the Indy fans’ love for him began at the 2009 “500”, where he crashed because of a drive shaft failure while running third on Lap 98. He took two hits against the wall – one against the backstretch and another at Turn 3.

When his car finally came to a stop, he heard cheers from the crowd as he climbed out of his battered machine.

“And since then, every year, it just kept growing and I think every year that went by when I didn’t win, we just kept growing the fan base,” he said. “More people felt sorry, more people felt I deserved to win. It got out of control. But it’s awesome.”

But now that he has drank the milk and kissed the bricks, what happens next?

“Now, probably, people won’t even cheer for me anymore,” said Kanaan, earning a wave of hearty laughter from the press.

If the masses at IMS this afternoon were any indication, he’ll never have to worry about that problem.

Latest Posts
  1. Spend Black Friday doing a few laps on Charlotte Motor Speedway

    Nov 26, 2014, 11:01 PM EST

    (AP Photo/Terry Renna) AP

    If you’re in the Charlotte area and want to have a great Black Friday experience, head on over to Charlotte Motor Speedway, where for a donation, you can drive on the actual racetrack.

  2. Sam Hornish Jr. has much to be thankful for: new home, renewed Sprint Cup hopes with Richard Petty Motorsports

    Nov 26, 2014, 8:56 PM EST

    (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall) AP

    Sam Hornish Jr. has a lot to give thanks for this Thanksgiving, most notably a new ride and a new lease on his Sprint Cup driving life with Richard Petty Motorsports.

  3. NBCSN presents 14-hour ‘MECUM MARATHON’ on Thanksgiving Day

    Nov 26, 2014, 4:40 PM EST

    mecum dealmakers

    NBCSN will present a 14-hour ‘Mecum Marathon’ starting Thursday, Thanksgiving Day.

  4. Simon Pagenaud’s Ayrton Senna tribute helmet to be auctioned off

    Nov 26, 2014, 2:30 PM EST

    98th Indianapolis 500 Mile Race Getty Images

    Simon Pagenaud’s Indy 500 Senna tribute helmet to be auctioned for Ayrton Senna Foundation.

  5. Report of Cole Whitt in for David Ragan at Front Row Racing ‘not true’

    Nov 26, 2014, 2:29 PM EST

    David Ragan (Todd Warshaw/Getty Images) Getty Images

    Front Row Racing officials on Wednesday denied rumors of Cole Whitt replacing David Ragan in the No. 34 Ford for 2015.

  6. F1 notes and quotes: Abu Dhabi Test Day 2

    Nov 26, 2014, 1:00 PM EST

    ADwrap Getty Images

    A rundown through the field after the final day of on-track running for F1 2014.

  7. Several NASCAR AMERICA specials to run over next month

    Nov 26, 2014, 12:30 PM EST

    nascar america

    Some NASCAR AMERICA specials are on tap before the end of the year.

  8. “Dream come true” for Italian Raffaele Marciello in Ferrari test

    Nov 26, 2014, 12:00 PM EST

    MarcielloAD1 Getty Images

    Marciello gracious for opportunity, and was thinking of Jules Bianchi throughout the day.

  9. A.J. Foyt still hospitalized but recovering after triple bypass

    Nov 26, 2014, 11:30 AM EST

    Foyt112614 AP

    A.J. Foyt with post-operative complication, but resolved.

  10. Mercedes reserve Wehrlein leads final Abu Dhabi test day to end 2014

    Nov 26, 2014, 11:13 AM EST

    WehrleinAD1 Getty Images

    New Mercedes driver, same place on the charts to close out 2014 F1 season.

  11. Life after Red Bull now beckons for JEV, where a new world awaits

    Nov 26, 2014, 10:31 AM EST

    Vergne 17-11 AP

    What’s next for Jean-Eric Vergne? An analysis of his time in F1, and where to from here.

  12. Jean-Eric Vergne confirms Toro Rosso exit

    Nov 26, 2014, 9:28 AM EST

    Canadian F1 Grand Prix - Practice Getty Images

    JEV out, and likely another rookie in at Toro Rosso for 2015.

  13. NASCAR: Reddit users provide snapshot of fan reaction to this year’s Chase

    Nov 25, 2014, 8:07 PM EST

    O'Reilly Auto Parts Challenge Getty Images

    A post-season exit survey provides some very interesting fan data on NASCAR’s latest version of its post-season format.

  14. Steve Letarte: Greg Ives’ familiarity with Hendrick will help Dale Jr., 88 team prosper (VIDEO)

    Nov 25, 2014, 7:00 PM EST

    Iowa Speedway - Day 1 Getty Images

    The outgoing crew chief for Dale Earnhardt Jr. also talks about his successor needing to make his own mark.

  15. Delaware court commissioner delays Kurt Busch hearing to Dec. 16

    Nov 25, 2014, 5:45 PM EST

    Ford EcoBoost 400 Getty Images

    The Delaware family court hearing is a separate matter from the ongoing police investigation into allegations of assault against Busch by his ex-girlfriend.

  16. NASCAR: Mike Hillman Jr. named crew chief for Brian Scott’s XFINITY program

    Nov 25, 2014, 5:15 PM EST

    Chicagoland Speedway - Day 1 Getty Images

    Brian Scott gets a new crew chief for 2015’s XFINITY campaign.

  17. WATCH: NASCAR AMERICA Tuesday night at 5 p.m. ET

    Nov 25, 2014, 4:44 PM EST

    nascar america

    It may be Thanksgiving week but NASCAR AMERICA is still on tonight at 5 p.m. ET.

  18. Marcus Ericsson makes official Sauber debut in Abu Dhabi test

    Nov 25, 2014, 4:30 PM EST

    F1 Grand Prix of Brazil - Previews Getty Images

    The ex-Caterham pilot runs 95 laps in the Sauber C33 at Yas Marina Circuit.

Video from NASCAR America

Kevin Harvick's well deserved Sprint Cup
Top 10 NASCAR Driver Searches
  1. J. McMurray (1567)
  2. J. Gordon (1561)
  3. T. Stewart (1488)
  4. J. Johnson (1234)
  5. J. Logano (1166)