Robin Miller writes…
Yes, he had inspired runs at Long Beach, Brazil, Pocono and Fontana but 2013 was all about one thing for Tony Kanaan: leaving one club at Indianapolis and joining another one. By scoring his first Indy 500 win, T.K. put his face on the Borg-Warner trophy and removed his lovable mug from that fraternity nobody wants to belong to: “Best To Never Win Indianapolis.”
“No offense to Lloyd Ruby, but I didn't want to be mentioned with him the rest of my life,” said Kanaan, referring to the talented Texan who came close but never tasted milk at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. “Same with Michael [Andretti]. He's a good friend and a great driver but now we're no longer related!”
Andretti, Ruby and Kanaan were considered by many as the best to have never made it to Victory Lane but the 39-year-old Brazilian emerged from a wild West 16th Street shootout to take something he deserved after so many near misses.
He followed up Indy with podiums at Texas, Iowa and Fontana and had a good shot at winning Pocono before getting his front wing knocked off during a mistimed pass.
The 2004 IndyCar champion did take fourth in the season opener at St. Pete and was leading the street race in his homeland before running out of fuel, but his shining moments and strengths in 2013 were on the ovals. Kanaan's overtaking skills served him well in May, where he started 12th and led 34 laps in another ultra-competitive Indy 500. Not bad for a guy who declared his car the “worst” he'd ever driven at the Speedway on the final day of practice.
“It was pretty bad but we made some changes on Carb Day and he liked them,” said Eric Cowdin, longtime engineer for the emotional veteran, who began his American career sleeping on the floor of Cowdin's apartment.
Despite his Indy win and that trio of thirds, it was feast or famine for T.K. as he had four DNFs due to accidents and a host of forgettable starts. But, if he was only going to win one race, he picked the right one and that made finishing 11th in the standings a whole lot easier to swallow.