Indianapolis, IN (Sports Network) - After years of heartache and misery at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, Brazilian Tony Kanaan can finally be called an Indianapolis 500 champion.
In a thrilling 500-mile race that featured a smashing record of 68 lead changes among 14 drivers and moved at a blistering pace of 187.433 mph, Tony Kanaan pulled ahead of Ryan Hunter-Reay for the lead after a restart with just three laps to go. Dario Franchitti, who won this prestigious event for the third time one year ago, crashed into the turn 1 wall following the restart, which ended the race under caution and allowed Kanaan to claim his first Indy 500 victory in his 12th attempt.
Ironically, Kanaan won the race after starting 12th.
Prior to his win on Sunday, Kanaan had led a total of 221 laps at Indy, but had come up short of taking the checkered flag for this race numerous times. Kanaan finished second in 2004, the same year he won his first IndyCar Series championship, and placed third in 2003 and 2012. He started on the pole for the 2005 event.
"I got a little bit of luck today," said Kanaan, who scored his 16th career IndyCar win. "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 (Borg-Warner) trophy. We were known for not winning, and now we are winning. I don't know what to say."
Kanaan's last victory in the series came in June 2010 at Iowa Speedway (46 races ago).
The previous record for most lead changes in the Indy 500 was 34, set last year, which marked the inaugural season for the DW12 Indy car.
Kanaan's win was a hugely popular one, as many in the crowd of more than 200,000 at this famed 2.5-mile speedway cheered loudly for him while he made his final lap around here under caution. He led a total of 34 laps.
"The last lap was the longest lap of my life," the 38-year-old Kanaan said. "I wanted the pace car to hurry up. But I've enjoyed it. We did it."
Kanaan is in his third season driving for KV Racing Technology, which is co- owned by Jimmy Vasser, the 1996 CART/Champ Car Series champion. Vasser competed in eight Indy 500s, with his best finish of fourth coming in 1994.
"I never won it as a driver," Vasser said. "In fact, I couldn't win it as a driver, so I had to hire the right guy to do it, get a 'Baby Borg' (trophy) on my shelf. Tony is the consummate professional."
Kanaan's win set an event record for earning a victory latest in a driver's Indy 500 career. In 1957, Sam Hanks won this race for the first time in his 12th start.
Rookie Carlos Munoz had a very impressive performance in his IndyCar debut with a second-place run. Munoz, a competitor in the Indy Lights Series this year, started on the front row. The Colombian drove past Hunter-Reay, his Andretti Autosport teammate, to take second just before Franchitti's crash.
"I really wanted to fight for the win," Munoz said. "Maybe I could win. Maybe not, but I really wanted to fight. I have nothing to be ashamed of. To be second and a rookie and the best of the (Andretti Autosport) team is a great job."
Hunter-Reay, the defending IndyCar champion, ended up finishing third.
"Big congratulations to Tony Kanaan," he said. "He has been there so many times, had bad luck and for whatever reason the race has alluded him. Great champion, certainly deserves it. But man am I disappointed."
Marco Andretti's fourth-place finish allowed Andretti Autosport to claim three of the top-four positions. Justin Wilson completed the top-five.
Andretti became the new points leader, taking a nine-point advantage over Takuma Sato, who finished 13th.
Helio Castroneves, who like Franchitti was trying to win the Indy 500 for a record-tying fourth time this year, finished sixth.
A.J. Allmendinger, who is Castroneves' teammate at Team Penske, took the seventh spot in his first Indy 500 start. Allmendinger led a total of 23 laps but had to pit out of sequence just past the halfway point for an issue with his seat belt. He had fallen one lap behind in 25th after pitting.
"Leading the race, I went down into turn 1, and (the seat belt) just popped out," Allmendinger said. "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. The guys did a good job."
Allmendinger is running a partial IndyCar schedule for Penske this season, in addition to his limited schedule for Phoenix Racing in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series.
Brad Keselowski, who drives for Penske in the Sprint Cup and Nationwide Series, was in attendance for a majority of the Indy 500 before heading back to Charlotte Motor Speedway for Sunday's 600-mile race. Keselowski was here supporting Penske drivers Allmendinger, his former Cup teammate, Castroneves and Will Power, who finished 19th as the last car on the lead lap.
"The 500 is a brand-new experience," Keselowski, the defending Sprint Cup champion, said prior to the start of the race. "I'm really excited to be here. This is my first Indy 500."
Simon Pagenaud was eighth, followed by Charlie Kimball and Ed Carpenter, who started on the pole at Indy for the first time and led a race-high 37 laps.
Franchitti, who started 17th and was never a factor in this race, ended up finishing 23rd. His Chip Ganassi Racing teammate, Scott Dixon, finished 14th after starting 16th.
"Sums up our day," Franchitti said. "Our car was never really good all day. In traffic, we couldn't make anything happen. I went into the first corner on the last restart, and it just didn't turn and then the hit. When I saw who was leading, it cheered me up a little bit.
"Just phenomenal that Tony won. We were never in contention, but I'm just so happy he won. He's a very, very deserving winner."
Kanaan and Franchitti were teammates at Andretti Green Racing from 2003-07.
There were 5 cautions for a total of 21 laps, including the first caution on lap 3 for an accident involving J.R. Hildebrand, who finished second in this race during his 2011 rookie season. Hildebrand spun around and backed it into the wall after he got loose between turns 1 and 2.
"I was going by 'Hinch' (James Hinchcliffe), and I think maybe he got stuck in the hard limit or something down the straightaway, so I went by him on the outside," Hildebrand said. "It was maybe just a little off line on the entry, but it was basically where the car had been working fine at that point. I just got a little loose going into the corner, and it sort of snapped, and then I went around. I'm incredibly disappointed."
In this race two years ago, Hildebrand appeared to be on his way to victory when he was leading on the last lap. But Hildebrand went wide coming out of the final turn and made contact with the wall, allowing Dan Wheldon to slip by him for the lead and then the win.
Hinchcliffe, who drives for Andretti and leads the series with two wins this season (St. Petersburg, Fla. and Sao Paulo, Brazil), finished 21st.
05/26 21:13:52 ET