David Malsher writes…
In a season full of memorable moments, Tony Kanaan, the charging bull in the IndyCar china shop when it comes to oval racing, finally conquered the biggest race of all. Detractors moan that the Indy 500 was won under yellow, and question whether the Andretti Autosport trio behind – Carlos Munoz, Ryan Hunter-Reay and Marco Andretti – could have beaten the KV Racing car in a straight-up run to the checkers. What they're forgetting is that when the green had waved previously, Kanaan guessed there would likely be more clashes and thus another caution period, therefore he hit the restart with extreme urgency. TK had more than pace and aggression on his side; he used his brain.
I've long been a fan of the way Kanaan races on street courses. No, he's not usually good at qualifying on them, but at race pace he shows great judgment in car placement and how to make a clean pass, as well as what is and what isn't good defense. (His clash with Oriol Servia at Long Beach was atypical, while his move on Graham Rahal at Baltimore looked like…well, let's put it this way: I think he expected that outcome. Like I say, Kanaan is race smart.)
There was more evidence of this, too, in St. Petersburg. Outpaced by new teammate Simona de Silvestro in qualifying, TK grabbed fourth in the closing stages of the race while the other KV driver burned off her rear tires trying in vain to hold off him, Marco Andretti and Scott Dixon. In Brazil – admittedly helped by an extremely muddled qualifying session that saw Team Penske fail to escape Q1! – Kanaan qualified top six and ran at the front until he ran out of gas. Extremely unfortunate this because, given how the race played out, I'd like to have seen him part of that multi-car scrap in the closing stages.
Elsewhere, Kanaan was, as ever, hopelessly lost in qualifying on the natural road courses, surprisingly excellent in Toronto, and predictably outstanding on the ovals. Funny thing is, his skills on the left-turn-only tracks went up another notch this year. Remember how, in the recent past he's had wall-thumping incidents while trying to carry his car? Not this year. At Texas, Iowa and Fontana, there were cars that were plain superior to his, and so he stayed realistic, consolidated what he had, and reached the podium each time.
Like I said, smart driver….