Tony Kanaan said he never felt he would be able to win the Indianapolis 500, despite managing to twice charge from the field from outside the top 20 to reach the top six.
After a low-key qualifying effort, Kanaan started only 22nd, but he managed to claw his way into sixth during the first two stints.
He then lost 20 places at a pitstop when he overshot his pit dodging around Pippa Mann's Conquest car, before fighting back once again to finally finish fourth.
"You've got to take what you've got," Kanaan said. "I knew I didn't have a car to win the race because of where we started. I drove through the field twice and it was awesome."
Kanaan paid tribute to his KV team, which he only joined on the eve of the St Petersburg season-opener having lost his Andretti Autosport drive and then seen a potential new deal with Gil de Ferran's squad turn to dust when the team collapsed.
"I can't thank these guys enough," said Kanaan of KV. "We've got to remember, four days before the first race, we didn't have a car, we didn't have a team. I had a rough off-season."
He added that he was delighted to see his former Andretti Green teammate Dan Wheldon take victory in the race.
"I'm extremely happy for Dan Wheldon. Me, Dario [Franchitti], him, Dixie [Scott Dixon] – we're the old-timers," said Kanaan. "A lot of people sometimes take us for granted, and we can still drive."
While KV's other regular drivers EJ Viso and Takuma Sato both crashed out early on, Tomas Scheckter finished a strong eighth in the car KV was running in conjunction with SH Racing.
"We didn't really have a car to win, or to really be where we finished. But we took our gloves off and we fought," said Scheckter. "I was wide open the whole race and when the opportunities presented themselves, I took positions."