In a record breaking day at Indianapolis, the last of a mammoth 68 lead changes was perhaps the most popular in the last 12 runnings of the Indy 500, as it was the eternally popular Tony Kanaan who finally shrugged off so much bad luck to claim his first Indianapolis 500 crown.
But first, let’s go back to 2004, when luck was with Kanaan everywhere he turned, helped by a lucky medallion he carried with him when he raced. That year, driving the 7-Eleven car for Andretti Autosports, Kanaan was in what would become his championship winning year when the circus arrived at Indianapolis. Early in the month of May that year, he learned of a young fan, Andrea Brown, who was about to undergo complicated brain surgery at nearby Methodist Hospital in Indianapolis. Kanaan, who had never before met Andrea, went to visit her and gave her his lucky medallion in the hope it would see her through her surgery, which it did.
Fast forward to 2013, and many were wondering whether Kanaan’s career was in its twilight years. He hadn’t won since Iowa 2010, nearly three years prior, and luck had nearly deserted him completely. Even the non-superstitious would see the effect the next two events had on him.
Friday 24 May 2013, and part of the mail delivery to the Speedway that day contained an overnight express delivery package addressed to Kanaan. Inside the package was a note that read:
“Dear Tony, Here is your good luck charm back. Now you take it and win the Indianapolis 500. From Andrea Brown”
Tony placed it inside the right thigh pocket in his race suit and carried it in the car with him.
Next, on Sunday morning, a surprise visit to the track came from two-time CART champion and Tony’s good friend Alex Zanardi, carrying his two gold medals won at the 2012 London Paralympic Games. Zanardi gave the medals to Tony and said “rub them on your car and they might bring you luck”. Tony did just that.
And as Tony Kanaan crossed the yard of bricks for the 200th time on Sunday afternoon to claim victory, one of the most popular winners of the 500 took his place as one of the greats of the sport. It was the sort of story legends are made of, and any criticism of Tony’s win that day could not be found uttered from any lips. He did have to work hard for it though.
Starting twelfth, it was quite astounding to see how quickly Kanaan made his way to the front, as he was the second man to lead a lap of the race that day. The focus early on was polesitter Ed Carpenter, who held the lead into the first corner, followed incident free by the rest of the field. Throughout the field, wheel to wheel action was everywhere you looked with 33 right feet planted flat to the floor.
It took three laps for the first incident and caution period. JR Hildebrand, driving for Panther Racing, went through Turn 1 far too high off the racing line, spun and made contact with the wall. It was a decent hit, and ended the Californian’s day barely as it was getting going.
The restart came on Lap 8, with Kanaan making the pass on Ed Carpenter for the lead, before surrendering it to the same man again a few laps later. This set the tone of the day, with slipstreaming on both straights causing the record-breaking number of lead changes as the afternoon progressed.
Carpenter held his own for much of the race, before fading later in the day. After a late pit stop, a slight adjustment to his car backfired, getting the polesitter caught in traffic and upsetting the balance of the car. He wrung the neck out of it from then on, kept it out of the wall but failed to trouble the leaders again and eventually finished tenth. A strong result nonetheless.
By Lap 30, the majority of the leaders had made their first stops, most under green flag running, with further stops coming about every 30 laps for the remainder of the day.
Soon afterward, Sebastian Saavedra brought out the next caution, as he was found at the wheel of a damaged car after a brush with the wall on the outside of Turn 3. Replays vindicated the young Colombian however, as it was revealed that he was chopped by an unidentified rival as he was going for an overtake. The resulting imbalance sent the Dragon Racing entry heading for the wall, from which point there was no recovery. Saavedra’s radio transmission was reported to contain some very colourful language, and more on this story will likely emerge soon.
The outside of Turn 4 saw a number of light scrapes from numerous drivers, including Simona De Silvestro, Buddy Lazier and Pippa Mann, with the latter causing enough damage to warrant an early shower as she retired from the race.
Right as Mann retired, Takuma Sato lost the back end of his car on the back stretch, spinning wildly but not hitting anything. He motioned furiously for the marshals to restart him, which they duly did and sent him on his way. Watching on the pitlane 33 days after surgery to repair four vertebrae in his neck, AJ Foyt saw another victory slip away. Foyt refused to let his recent surgery keep him from his 56th consecutive involvement in the Indy 500. In fact, when Foyt made his debut at Indianapolis, Dwight Eisenhower was the US President, there was no NFL Super Bowl or Daytona 500. In fact, America consisted of only 48 states, with Alaska and Hawaii not yet admitted. He wasn’t going to let neck surgery keep him away.
Racing veteran but Indy 500 rookie AJ Allmendinger was showing his gratitude at having been given a second chance by Roger Penske following his drugs suspension from NASCAR last year by running extremely well near the front. Allmendinger even took the lead and looked very much a contender for the win, until an issue forced an emergency out-of-sequence pit stop. The problem turned out to be a loose seat-belt. He went a lap down once he emerged to the track following the readjustment to his restraint, however was far from done for the day.
Extremely impressive in his effort and conduct was Marco Andretti, who was always in the hunt and frequently making the pass for the lead throughout the day. Early on, Andretti became the kingpin of the restarts, often winning the race for the first corner and finding himself in the lead, before later being overtaken again. He was in the hunt all day, but was unable to capitalise at the right time and finished a strong fourth.
Two drivers who were surprisingly nowhere near the front all day was Dario Franchitti and Scott Dixon, unable to maximise the grip on their Chip Ganassi Dallaras. Off sequence, both found themselves running high up while the rest of the field made their pitstops, before resuming their places around mid pack. Neither were in contention all day, and were a long way from where the fans expected them to be. Franchitti later described his car as ‘’terrible’’ to drive.
Undoubtedly the strangest incident of the day came towards the end when Sebastien Bourdais entered the pitlane for supposedly routine service, only to lose control under braking and sliding into the pit wall, wrecking his left front suspension and sliding into his pit box. The crew couldn’t believe the car they were about to work on and send on its way had now been delivered to them in a mess. Bourdais climbed from the car, unable to believe what had just happened.
With ten laps to go, Ryan Hunter-Reay and Tony Kanaan are swapping the lead like a hot potato nobody wants to hold, and fans are on their feet for a furious back and forth for the chequered flag.
Then, with 7 laps remaining, in the background, Graham Rahal loses control and makes moderate contact with the wall, bringing out the first caution period since Lap 61. The tension by that point was palpable and Tony Kanaan’s wife Lauren was beyond tense as she waited to see whether her husband could finally break his drought.
The restart came with three laps to go, with Marco Andretti, Hunter Reay and TK gunning for the front. Kanaan put his car in the right position and claimed the lead, bracing himself for the challenges from rivals over the closing 7.5 miles.
He needed not worry, as, further back, Franchitti’s car finally cried enough, with the Scot losing control and hitting the wall on the outside of Turn 1. When the caution came out, Lauren Kanaan started celebrating, knowing this was it. The pace car picked up leader Tony Kanaan and led him and his rivals around in formation to complete the race and into Victory Lane to drink his bottle of 2% buttermilk. From the time the car rolled off the plane from Brazil and onto the track for the first time, not a single tweak was made to the car’s aerodynamics or setup, with Kanaan claiming the car was perfect all month long. Evidently, it was just that.
Coming home in second place was a man I have deliberately not mentioned earlier. Undoubtedly the Rookie of the Year for Indy in 2013 was the sensational Carlos Munoz. The young Colombian had one day before come within a whisker of claiming the Freedom 100 Indy Lights Race also, and in his Andretti Autosports entry, was never out of contention all day.
Often flying through into the lead, swapping the front with team-mates Ryan Hunter-Reay and Marco Andretti as well as rivals Helio Castroneves, Tony Kanaan and Ed Carpenter, Munoz showed a level of maturity far beyond his years to come home in an amazing second place – the same spot he started – and cementing his name among the pitlane, ensuring a long career ahead.
What a race, what a month of May, and what an Indy 500 – another unforgettable edition of the Grandest Show in Motorsports was delivered to all who saw it.
And the Andretti curse at Indianapolis now goes into its 45th year.
2013 IndyCar Series Indianapolis 500 Final Classification (200 laps):
|Driver||Entry / Team||Laps||Result|
|1.||Tony Kanaan||KV Racing Technology||200||2:40:03.4181|
|2.||Carlos Muñoz||Andretti Autosport||200||+ 0.1159|
|3.||Ryan Hunter-Reay||Andretti Autosport||200||+ 0.2480|
|4.||Marco Andretti||Andretti Autosport||200||+ 0.3634|
|5.||Justin Wilson||Dale Coyne Racing||200||+ 0.8138|
|6.||Hélio Castroneves||Team Penske||200||+ 3.0086|
|7.||A.J. Allmendinger||Team Penske||200||+ 4.0107|
|8.||Simon Pagenaud||SPH Racing||200||+ 4.2609|
|9.||Charlie Kimball||Chip Ganassi Racing||200||+ 5.6864|
|10.||Ed Carpenter||Ed Carpenter Racing||200||+ 6.8425|
|11.||Oriol Servià||Panther / Dreyer & Reinbold||200||+ 7.8633|
|12.||Ryan Briscoe||Chip Ganassi Racing||200||+ 8.9216|
|13.||Takuma Sato||AJ Foyt Enterprises||200||+ 10.2602|
|14.||Scott Dixon||Chip Ganassi Racing||200||+ 11.3858|
|15.||Ana Beatriz||Dale Coyne Racing||200||+ 12.2657|
|16.||Tristan Vautier||SPH Racing||200||+ 15.3045|
|17.||Simona de Silvestro||KV Racing Technology||200||+ 15.7201|
|18.||E.J. Viso||Team Venzuela / Andretti||200||+ 17.8056|
|19.||Will Power||Team Penske||200||+ 22.5403|
|20.||James Jakes||Rahal Letterman Lanigan||199||1 lap behind|
|21.||James Hinchcliffe||Andretti Autosport||199||1 lap behind|
|22.||Conor Daly||AJ Foyt Enterprises||198||2 laps behind|
|23.||Dario Franchitti||Chip Ganassi Racing||197||Accident|
|24.||Alex Tagliani||Barracuda Racing||196||4 laps behind|
|25.||Graham Rahal||Rahal Letterman Lanigan||193||Accident|
|26.||Katherine Legge||SPH Racing||193||7 laps behind|
|27.||Townsend Bell||Panther Racing||192||8 laps behind|
|28.||Josef Newgarden||Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing||191||9 laps behind|
|DNF.||Sébastien Bourdais||Dragon Racing||178||Accident|
|DNF.||Pippa Mann||Dale Coyne Racing||46||Accident|
|DNF.||Buddy Lazier||Lazier Partners Racing||44||Mechanical|
|DNF.||Sebastián Saavedra||Dragon Racing||34||Accident|
|DNF.||JR Hildebrand||Panther Racing||3||Accident|
|Did Not Qualify|
|DNQ.||Michel Jourdain Jr||Rahal Letterman Lanigan|