It is never the official, unofficial start to summer until the winner of the Indianapolis 500 kneels down and kisses the bricks and chugs a bottle of milk.
This is exactly what Tony Kanaan did on Sunday afternoon as he raced to his first ever Indy 500 checkered flag. He has competed in the race a total of 12 times and was finally able to shake the monkey off of his back to earn the win.
Kanaan was not able to put it on cruise control at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. The race was far from over even with three short laps left and Ryan Hunter-Reay leading the pack. That is when both Kanaan and Carlos Munoz drew even with him.
Racing three-wide with his fellow drivers, Kanaan was able to work himself out into the lead before the yellow flag came out for a caution. Normally, the first place driver is considered the most vulnerable on restarts, but a caution-riddled late portion of the race allowed Kanaan to maintain his position and take the checkered flag.
Munoz finished in second place while Hunter-Reay landed in third. Three-time Indy 500 champion Helio Castroneves finished in sixth place. Defending champion Dario Franchetti triggered the final caution flag by crashing in the very late stages of the race.
The victory is only the latest addition to an impressive list of accomplishments for the Brazilian driver. Kanaan has recorded 15 IndyCar wins and was crowned series champion back in 2004.
With the latest Indy 500 in the books, here is a look back at some of the most memorable finishes in the race’s history.
- Scott Goodyear vs. Al Unser Jr. (1992): Talk about close finishes — Goodyear started at the 33rd position that year and worked his way to the front of the pack. The race came down to a dual between Goodyear and Unser Jr. Despite a frantic attempt on the final stretch, Unser Jr. secured the win by just .043 seconds.
- Gordon Johncock vs. Rick Mears (1982): Before the Goodyear/Unser Jr. battle, this was the closest finish in Indy 500 history. Down the final stretch, a younger Mears try to make a move, but to no avail. Johncock captured the checkered flag by .16 seconds.
- Rick Mears vs. Michael Andretti (1991): Mears strikes again, but fast-forwarding a decade and this time he was going for his fourth Indy 500 victory. The action began on a restart with 13 laps remaining in the race. Andretti passed Mears for what appeared to be the race-defining move, but Mears dug deep and passed him back to earn the victory.
- Dan Wheldon vs. Danica Patrick (2005): Patrick was the plucky upstart rookie that recorded the fastest lap of the month, making her a favorite in the race. Wheldon and Patrick went toe-to-toe late in the race with Patrick passing Wheldon. However, with just seven laps left, Wheldon took advantage of the fact that Patrick was trying to conserve fuel and he overtook her. Patrick eventually landed in fourth place while Wheldon took the checkers.