In A Nutshell: For INDYCAR, lightning maybe does strike twice. If you thought the 2012 race was one of the best ever, then you must have really enjoyed the 2013 Indy 500, easily among the most competitive of all time. On his twelfth try, Tony Kanaan finally got a very popular victory in the sport’s biggest race, throwing a giant monkey off his back. Kanaan had led eight times in his previous eleven trips to Indy, often in the late going. Each time, the crowd would go wild for the popular Brazilian, hoping for the win, but it just never came together. Until today. Kanaan told his team he was going to go for it on the final restart no matter what and that’s exactly what he did. The three Andretti Autosport cars of Carlos Munoz, Ryan Hunter-Reay, and Marco Andretti followed Kanaan across the line with Justin Wilson rounding out the top five.
Key Moment: Ryan Hunter-Reay was in the lead as the field took the final restart with just three laps remaining but the lead was not a great place to be. Tony Kanaan dove to the inside while rookie Carlos Munoz took the high side and when they got to Turn 1, Kanaan was in front. Dario Franchitti’s crash into the Turn 1 wall made Kanaan’s pass the winning move as the caution came out and Kanaan ran the final two laps behind the pace car to take the checkers.
- The one debate that will likely arise from the race is whether or not the IZOD IndyCar Series needs to use some method to ensure races end under green flag conditions. With the fierce competition and number of lead changes taking place today, those making an argument for an overtime finish will say that we were deprived of seeing a great run to the checkers while Kanaan took it the easy way. On the other hand, it was a great race all day, and Kanaan’s move to take the lead certainly wasn’t what anyone would call easy. It was bold and exciting and I, for one, was not left feeling at all cheated because the last two laps ran under caution. When you tune in or buy a ticket, you are guaranteed to see a race. However, you’re not guaranteed anything about how it will play out and if anyone wants to ignore the amazing race that unfolded to complain about the final caution, you may have missed the point of what racing is all about because it doesn’t get much better than that.
- Last year’s 500 featured a record 34 lead changes. The 2013 edition of the event pulled that record off the wall, tore it up, and stomped on it. There were a new record 68 lead changes among an also record 14 drivers. It took more space to list the lead changes than the full finishing order on the box score.
- Speaking of records, there were a few more set or tied today. The winner’s average speed was 187.433, the fastest Indy 500 ever. The 26 cars running at the finish were the most since the inaugural Indy 500 in 1911, tying with that event for the most cars running at the finish of a race that went the full 500-mile distance. Nineteen of those cars were on the lead lap, tying the record set in 2009. Tony Kanaan and Marco Andretti each led the race fifteen times, the most for a driver in a winning effort (Kanaan) and for a non-winner (Andretti).
- For those who like to leave the track early, that’s not advisable these days at Indy. For the last four years, the final lead change has happened within the final eight laps.
- NASCAR fans, be proud of your guy AJ Allmendinger. This was his first try at the Indy 500 and but for a loose seat belt, he might have been the one hoisting the trophy. His car came in nicely and he led around the halfway point but was forced to pit road when said belt came loose on lap 113. Because the race ran green until lap 194, he never got back on pit sequence with the rest of the lead cars. He’d make it back to the lead again, but always had to pit a good ten laps before everyone else and lost the track position needed to contend.
- Do you believe in luck? Close friend Alex Zanardi came to visit Kanaan and team this week and according to team co-owner Jimmy Vasser, Zanardi brought his gold medal from the London Paralympics and told them to rub it on the car for good luck (it’s worth mentioning that Vasser did a pretty good impression of Zanardi when he told this story).
- Last year, Dario Franchitti was in Victory Lane. This year, he ended up crashed into the wall three laps short of the finish. It was merely the end of a dismal day that saw Franchitti struggle with a mid-pack car at best. It wasn’t a very happy month of May for anyone at Chip Ganassi Racing, in truth. Charlie Kimball recorded the best result in ninth, struggling through the day with electrical issues. Ryan Briscoe came home 12th and Scott Dixon finished in 14th.
- Maybe Will Power is finally getting the hang of ovals. Power had easily one of his best runs ever at Indy, leading twice for a total of 16 laps. A fuel problem late in the race forced an extra pit stop, relegating Power to a 19th-place finish but that is not indicative of how he ran.
- Polesitter Ed Carpenter was strong in the early going but says his team went with a more conservative setup than some of the others. The result was a car that faded as the race went on while others improved. He finished tenth.
- Your new points leader is Marco Andretti, who pulled ahead of Takuma Sato by 11 points. Helio Castroneves, Ryan Hunter-Reay, and James Hinchcliffe round out the top five.
- If you are one of those folks who was disappointed at not getting to see a green-flag finish, then maybe this will make you feel better. Shout out to our Matt Stallknecht, who called it that the Indy Lights Freedom 100 on Friday would also be a great event and he was right. Check out this finish from Friday’s race. Note that Carlos Munoz was a big part of that story too. He was the guy on the inside who finished fourth.
Notable Driver: Carlos Munoz. The rookie started in the middle of the front row, and perhaps that’s good rookie luck. After all, qualifying is an individual effort and it says nothing about how a driver might do under the added pressure of race conditions, with other drivers all around, close racing, pit stops. Well, Munoz never put a wheel wrong all day, made all his stops without incident, and was on the outside of a three-wide battle for the lead on the final restart before having to settle for second behind Kanaan. It will be interesting to see if this race was beginner’s luck or not… but so far, Munoz is off to a fantastic start.
Quotes and Tweets:
“This is my first Indy 500. I’m here soaking in one of the biggest races of the year with one of the best guys here, Roger Penske (his NASCAR car owner). I am with my dad and crew chief Paul Wolfe. This is quite an experience already. I plan to be in the pits if they don’t kick me out. I have to leave a little early to make sure we get to Charlotte in time for the race.” Reigning Sprint Cup champion Brad Keselowski, who commented that he might be interested in doing the double someday
“It is surreal. It is an opportunity to bring closure to what was otherwise a very tragic event in Boston. It’s redemption, healing, closure. It’s exciting. We’re treated like celebrities; it’s unreal. The love, the support; it’s just hard to put into words.” Joe Briseno, Boston Marathon participant from Mason City, Illinois, on getting to finish the marathon at the Brickyard prior to the race.
“Once I figured it out, the IZOD Chevy was just a missile. It was almost too easy at times just to go by the guys. It was probably the coolest feeling in my life to take the lead at Indy and lead the Indy 500. That’s a feeling I’ll never forget.” (On his seat belt issues during the race): “I guess it’s God’s way of saying, ‘Maybe you’re not going to win it your first time.’ But leading the race, I went down into Turn 1. I mean, it was 130 laps in, so it wasn’t like they were loose or anything, and it just popped out. Maybe it was because my heart was beating too hard from leading the race. But it came undone. I tried to do it down the back straightaway. I tried to loosen it back up and stick it back in but it wasn’t going to happen.” AJ Allmendinger
“I should be happy. But I thought I should win this thing. The car was so great from the first lap to the last lap.” Carlos Munoz on his second-place finish.
“He’s just awesome in those (restart) situations. He was just great all day. Alex Zanardi gave us some luck today. He gave us his gold medal from London and told us, ‘Rub this all over the car.’ Tony took the medal to his motorhome with him for an hour.” KV Racing Technology No. 11 Co-Owner Jimmy Vasser
“I got a little bit of luck today. It’s for the fans. It’s for my dad that’s not here. But mainly for all of you guys. I was looking at the stands, and it was unbelievable. I’m speechless. This is it, man. I made it. Finally they’re going to put my ugly face on this trophy. We were known for not winning, and now we are winning. I don’t know what to say.” Tony Kanaan
“That’s just the way it works out. That was bad luck. We were leading on that last restart. I knew I was a sitting duck, and I wasn’t too bummed about it because I knew we had enough laps to get it going again and have a pass back, and maybe I would be third on the last lap, which is where I wanted to be, and it didn’t work out that way. There was a crash in Turn 1, and the race ended. It’s unfortunate. Big congratulations to Tony Kanaan, though. He has been there so many times, had bad luck and for whatever reason the race has eluded him.” Ryan Hunter-Reay on the last caution.
What’s Next: And now for something completely different! The IZOD IndyCar Series heads to the Belle Isle road course circuit in Detroit for the first of the new doubleheader format races, the Chevrolet Indy Dual in Detroit. Race 1 will be Saturday, June 1, at 3:30 p.m. and Race 2 will be Sunday, June 2, at 3:30 p.m. Both races will be broadcast on ABC with radio coverage on Sirius XM Channel 211.
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