The frantic portion of the race where there seemed to be a lead change every lap were too numerous to recap but Kanaan’s quest to his first Indy 500 victory is not. From the first time he competed at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in 2002 he has been competitive and that is what made him a fan favorite.
He rewarded those fans with a spectacular victory on Sunday and even got some “feel-good” response from his rivals on the race track.
“T.K. is such a fan favorite,” Hunter-Reay said. “He’s a great guy, a great teammate, great friend of mine. Yeah, absolutely, it’s great to see him win it. If anybody is going to win it in the field, he’s one of the few I’d like to see other than myself. So that’s really cool just watching it.
“That’s why this place is so special. I’ve wanted to win here since I was six years old. That’s kind of what I’m thinking right now. Had the horse to get me there. We were riding strong today. Just didn’t quite pan out.
“But that’s what’s racing’s about. We’ll come back hopefully and have another shot at it next year.”
Kanaan finally had his shot to finally put to rest his Indianapolis 500 adversity.
“First I think we can prove that theory that says that nice guys don’t win,” Kanaan said. “I guess we proved them wrong. Second, the 11 number never won here, so we made another history. Somebody told me that this morning. I didn’t know if it was a negative or positive.
“This place, I’ve always said it, it’s been special to me, and I meant that when I said that. I didn’t have to win here. I said that out there. The fans, they actually spoiled me a little bit on my win. When I finished 11th here, starting dead last, I got out of the car and it was exactly the same.
“I already had felt a little bit, I hadn’t drank the milk, kissed the bricks, but it means a lot to me, because so many people I can feel they wanted me to win. It’s such a selfish thing to do because what are they getting from it? I’m the one that gets the trophy. If you can bring some joy to them, and I think the best thing was try to put an exciting race for them.
“I said it before the race, I believed that this win was more for people out there than for me. I wanted it all my life. But over the years, I was kind of okay with the fact that I may never have a chance to win it. Then I started coming back here. From day one, it catches me by surprise, I can’t walk out there, I couldn’t before, I don’t know now, maybe it’s going to get worse, the parade, everywhere, it’s just unbelievable.
“It’s nice. I think wins are important, trophies are really nice, but what I’m going to take forever, it’s definitely this.”
Somewhere, someplace, Lloyd Ruby is smiling after the famed hard-luck driver of the 1960s and 1970s passed away two years ago. Looking down on Kanaan, Ruby probably liked what he witnessed on Sunday.
“It wasn’t a pressure,” Kanaan said. “Again, it’s so hard to win a race. It’s even harder to pick a race to win. I’m glad I put myself out of that group and put myself in the other group. Before the race, it was very special. Parnelli Jones came to me and said, ‘I want you to win.’ I’m like, Whoa, all right. I’ve always admired the legends of this place. Rick Mears, A.J. Foyt, Mario Andretti, Parnelli Jones. It starts to get into you. Then to have these people telling you they want you to win, it’s awesome.
“I’m glad I’m on the other side and I can put my big nose on that trophy.”