Tony Kanaan's long wait for a win at Indianapolis came to an end on Sunday when the Brazilian drank the milk at the end of an action-packed Indy 500.
In a race defined by constant slipstreaming and a record 68 lead changes, the KV Racing Technology driver took the lead for the final time when he passed Ryan Hunter-Reay on a restart with three laps left to run (ABOVE). There should still have been plenty of time for any number of the cars around him to attack, but they were denied the opportunity when Dario Franchitti crashed and brought the yellows back out. The final laps were completed under caution.
"That last lap was the longest of my life," said Kanaan, who started 12th and led 34 laps. "I got a little bit of luck today and this is for the fans. I was looking at the stands (on the cool-down lap) and it was unbelievable.
"I made it, and now I get to put my ugly face on that trophy," added thre 38-year-old veteran. "We were known for not winning (the race) and now we are known for winning. Everything was so smooth. Jimmy [Vasser, team co-owner and Kanaan's race strategist] was calm. I was calm. But out of the 11 times I have been here it was exactly the same, so when it was six laps to go and it went yellow I wasn't in the lead I said, 'This might be the day. Today might be the day.' I was in Ryan [Hunter-Reay]'s position many times and then I knew I had to get the lead on the restart because there could be a yellow – which had happened to me plenty of times here. And it did. How life is funny – the yellow was my best friend."
Rookie Carlos Munoz backed up his practice speed by finishing an excellent second for Andretti Autosport; the rookie having looked more than at home running among the leaders right through the afternoon.
Completing a great afternoon for the Andretti team was Ryan Hunter-Reay in third and Marco Andretti in fourth, although both will view the result as one that got away after spending a vast amount of the race trading the lead.
"The frustrating part is we were quick enough. I was leading by a bit of a margin there over T.K. or Marco," mused RHR. "We had lapped traffic coming up. I thought, 'This is great, if we can get in traffic, I can distance myself,' because our car was great in traffic.
"Right as I was getting into the tow from the traffic, the yellow came. We were leading and the rest is history. When you're up front leading, especially on a restart, you might as well be driving a bulldozer. Everybody come on by. I'm actually happy we got third. I figured with that restart, being first, we would have been shuffled back to fourth or so.
"When I got through Turn 1, tucking in behind Carlos, I thought, 'You know what, this is perfect. We're third with four laps to go. I can bide my time, put myself into a position to fight for it at the end,' but it never came because of the yellow came right back out. It's unfortunate."
Justin Wilson was the first Honda-powered driver across the line in fifth, the Brit jumping ahead of Helio Castroneves in the final laps, while AJ Allmendinger drove a great race all afternoon on his way to seventh.
Simon Pagenaud, Charlie Kimball and polesitter Ed Carpenter, who started strongly but faded later in the race, completed the top 10.
The nature of defending race winner Franchitti's exit brought an early end to what had been a pretty difficult afternoon, with the Scot spending most of the race mired on the outer fringes of the top 20.
Until the late pair of cautions, the race had been run almost completely under green flag conditions. Indeed, with seven laps remaining, the average race speed was more than 7mph above the record. That dropped with the late yellows, but the race was still the fastest ever with a winner's average speed of 187.433mph.
The first caution came after just three laps when JR Hildebrand lost the rear of his car and hit the barriers; an accident that Graham Rahal did a good job of replicating to bring out the second-last yellow 194 laps later.
Rahal's crash ended a frustrating day for the Rahal Letterman Lanigan team, which also had both cars issued a monetary fine for breaching pitlane protocol, and then saw James Jakes dealt a drive-through penalty for an unsafe stop.
Meanwhile, Sebastien Bourdais took the prize for the most baffling incident of the day when he lost control and crashed into the wall in the pitlane.
Results - 200 laps:
Pos Driver Team/Engine Time/Gap
1. Tony Kanaan KV/Chevy
2. Carlos Munoz Andretti/Chevy + 0.1159
3. Ryan Hunter-Reay Andretti/Chevy + 0.2480
4. Marco Andretti Andretti/Chevy + 0.3634
5. Justin Wilson Coyne/Honda + 0.8138
6. Helio Castroneves Penske/Chevy + 3.0086
7. AJ Allmendinger Penske/Chevy + 4.0107
8. Simon Pagenaud Schmidt/Honda + 4.2609
9. Charlie Kimball Ganassi/Honda + 5.6864
10. Ed Carpenter Carpenter/Chevy + 6.8425
11. Oriol Servia Panther DRR/Chevy + 7.8633
12. Ryan Briscoe Ganassi/Honda + 8.9216
13. Takuma Sato Foyt/Honda + 10.2602
14. Scott Dixon Ganassi/Honda + 11.3858
15. Ana Beatriz Coyne/Honda + 12.2657
16. Tristan Vautier Schmidt/Honda + 15.3045
17. Simona De Silvestro KV/Chevy + 15.7201
18. EJ Viso Andretti/Chevy + 17.8056
19. Will Power Penske/Chevy + 22.5403
20. James Jakes Rahal/Honda + 1 lap
21. James Hinchcliffe Andretti/Chevy + 1 lap
22. Conor Daly Foyt/Honda + 2 laps
23. Dario Franchitti Ganassi/Honda + 3 laps*
24. Alex Tagliani Herta/Honda + 4 laps
25. Graham Rahal Rahal/Honda + 7 laps*
26. Katherine Legge Schmidt/Honda + 7 laps
27. Townsend Bell Panther/Chevy + 8 laps
28. Josef Newgarden Fisher/Honda + 9 laps
* Not running at finish
Sebastien Bourdais Dragon/Chevy 178 laps
Pippa Mann Coyne/Honda 46 laps
Buddy Lazier Lazier/Chevy 44 laps
Sebastian Saavedra Dragon/Chevy 34 laps
JR Hildebrand Panther/Chevy 3 laps
All drivers in Dallara DW12 chassis