Too few people will appreciate or comprehend the emotion of the 2013 Indy 500, and the words that follow will struggle to convey such passion and happiness. Tony Kanaan, after years of dedication, dreaming and belief, has finally won the big one, and I don’t believe a more popular victory has ever existed.
The Indy 500 consisted of various narratives, all of which made for compelling veiwing; the rookie, Carlos Munoz, showed extraordinary pace in this, the most daunting race of all; Marco Andretti aimed to break the ‘Andretti Curse’ and become the first member of the famous family to win at Indy since Grandad Mario in 1969; eleven Americans targeted victory in “their” race for the first time since Sam Hornish Junior in 2006 and Helio Castroneves and Dario Franchitti were both in search of a famous fourth victory.
But Tony Kanaan’s story is even more captivating.
Twelve times the likeable Brazilian has attempted to win at the ‘Brickyard’ – he even lead the race on the previous eight occasions – but that chequered flag has eluded him every time, most painfully in 2004 when he came home second, his best finish.
The remarkable story of T.K’s eventual victory started 9 years ago; on the eve of the Indy 500, Tony visited a hospital in Indiana where he met a young girl in desperately poor health. Tony would be firing up his engine the next day as the young girl lay in an operating theatre. By her side however, a gift from Tony – his very own good luck medallion. Fast forward to 2013 and the eve of the big race saw a package arrive with Tony’s name on it. The young girl, fit and healthy now, had returned the medallion, believing that it was Tony who now needed the luck.
In his pocket the good luck charm went and there it stayed until Tony’s arrival in victory lane.
Kanaan’s quest for victory at Indy has been well documented and always accompanied by cries of passion and determination, more so since the tragic death of his good friend and two-time Indy winner Dan Wheldon. To have Tony’s face engraved on the Borg Warner trophy along with Dan’s seemed to mean more to Tony than the victory itself, and nobody deserved it more.
At the last restart the call came from Kanaan; “I’m gunna go for it guys, it’s all or nothing”. Go for it he did, and just at the right moment – a full course caution with just two laps to go, seconds after Kanaan had snatched the lead, meant Tony just had to follow the pace car home, but nothing was certain until the flag fell.
With the win in memory of Tony’s father, who passed away when T.K was just thirteen, thoughts turn to Tony’s own son, Leonardo, whose Daddy had said that perhaps a victory at last in the Indy 500 would mean a more permanent return home to Brazil; the quarter of a million people at Indy cheering Tony’s name would miss him dearly.
This is what motor racing is all about; the people, their emotion, their quest for victory powered by an extraordinary belief. Long may this victory be remembered – Tony Kanaan certainly won’t forget it.