Brazil's Tony Kanaan wins Indy 500
Brazil's Tony Kanaan, frustrated after leading eight Indianapolis 500s without a victory, finally won the oval classic on Sunday with tension-packed restart pass with three laps remaining.
Kanaan overtook US leader Ryan Hunter-Reay on the restart and a crash by defending champion Dario Franchitti moments later handed Kanaan a long-sought triumph over 200 laps at the 2.5-mile (four-kilometer) Indianapolis Motor Speedway oval.
"I can't believe it. I'm speechless," Kanaan said. "I got a little bit of luck today."
Kanaan ensured his likeness will be molded onto the champions' trophy in his 12th Indy start.
"We were known for not winning. Now we're known for winning," Kanaan said. "This is it. I made it. Finally, I'm going to put my ugly face on that trophy."
On the lap 198 restart after a crash by US racer Graham Rahal, Kanaan went low around Hunter-Reay and took the lead in the first turn while Colombian rookie Carlos Munoz, in his first IndyCar race, went high and took second.
Seconds later, Franchitti hit the wall to bring out yellow flags for the final time as the race cruised to the finish under slow-speed caution laps.
"I couldn't believe it," Kanaan said. "The last lap was the longest lap of my life. I wanted the pace car to hurry up."
Hunter-Reay was third, American Marco Andretti fourth, Britain's Justin Wilson fifth and three-time winner Helio Castroneves of Brazil sixth.
There were an Indy 500 record 14 leaders and 68 lead changes, twice the old record set just last year.
Munoz, Indy's youngest-ever front row starter at age 21, was sorry he never had the chance to battle Kanaan at full speed over the final laps.
"I had a shot to overtake for the win. I couldn't do anything," Munoz said. "I'm sad now, but I think I had the car to win this thing. Maybe next year I will get the chance to win it."
Many rivals were glad to see Kanaan complete his long journey to Victory Lane.
"If there's anybody who deserved to win it's TK," Andretti said. "We're frustrated -- fourth is as far back as we were all day -- but we're leading the (IndyCar season) points now so I guess that's OK."
"I saw TK was (going to win). That cheered me up just a little bit," said three-time winner Franchitti, who was unharmed. "I couldn't be happier for him."
"Well deserved. I'm happy for him," said Castroneves.
Kanaan had two good luck charms. One was a medal he had given a fan that she returned to him ahead of the race in hopes of helping him finally win at Indy.
The other came when former IndyCar racer Alex Zanardi of Italy, who had his legs amputated after a horrific 2001 crash, rubbed his 2012 London Paralympic handbiking road race gold medal on his friend Kanaan's car.
"It's a dream come true to see Tony win," Zanardi said.
Kanaan had been among the leaders all day with Andretti, the 2006 Indy 500 runner-up, and Hunter-Reay, the reigning series season champion, dueling with him to set up the late drama, but still no US racer has won at Indy since 2006.
Franchitti and Castroneves missed a chance to match the all-time record four Indy 500 wins by a single driver.