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Thrilled Kanaan finally joins the Indy greats

The sentiment seemed shared everywhere you went at IMS after the race. Even though he would have dearly loved to have won his fourth Indy 500 this year, compatriot Helio Castroneves couldn't have been more thrilled for Kanaan's long-overdue success.

"I'm very happy," Castroneves said. "Well-deserved for him. Well-deserved for his team. Hell of a job. I'm happy for you."

Kanaan came close to winning the Indy 500 in 2004 while driving for Andretti-Green. He was denied the chance to make a run for the win when rain caused the race to be called 20 laps early, so perhaps this year's final yellow three laps from the finish which came just after Kanaan had overtaken Ryan Hunter-Reay for the lead at a final restart was just karma's tardy repayment of an old debt it owed him.

Even though it seemed that the leader of the race had proved to be a sitting duck all day long because of the aerodynamics of the new DW12 Dallara race car, Kanaan didn't hesitate to take the lead when the green came out: he sensed that this might be the crucial moment, and that's just how it turned out.

"When it was six laps to go, went yellow, I wasn't in the lead, I said, 'This might be the day, today might be the day', because I was in Ryan's position plenty of times," Kanaan explained of why he'd jumped into the lead as soon as he had. "I knew I had to get the lead on the restart because it could be a yellow, which happened to me plenty of times here, and it did. How life is funny. The yellow was my best friend."

Of course the conspiracy theorists are never far away, and immediately to whispers started that Franchitti had purposely crashed at precisely the minute he knew Kanaan held the lead.

"People are saying he did it on purpose," said Kanaan. "Obviously not. I can see him mad out of the car. When he saw I was in the lead, he was shaking his head, like waving at me. It was special, very special.

"I never had a doubt I could win this thing. I talked about it many times that I could do it or not, but this place is still going to be special. Today it worked."

With IndyCar not using any special procedures for ensuring a racing end in the event of a late yellow along the lines of a NASCAR green-white-chequered finish, Kanaan and the rest of the field simply had to circulate around behind the pace car for three laps to make the result official. Kanaan said those three laps had taken an eternity.

"I couldn't believe it. How many laps to go? Two to go. I guess that's it. The last lap was the longest lap of my life. I wanted the pace car to hurry up. I enjoyed it. We did it."

The first person to welcome him as he got out of the #11 car in victory circle was his wife Lauren, who'd lived through the suspense of every one of those 200 miles in the hope that this year, finally, her man would get the acclamation and success he so richly deserved.

"Tony is so humble, so grateful for this day," she told the media afterwards. "It was a huge team victory."

Related Pictures

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The race-winning #11 KV Racing car of Tony Kanaan in victory lane after the 2013 Indianapolis 500 - Sunday, May 26 2013. (Photo Credit: John Cote for IndyCar Media)
Tony Kanaan celebrates winning the 2013 Indianapolis 500 - Sunday, May 26 2013. (Photo Credit: John Cote for IndyCar Media)
KV Racing team owner Jimmy Vasser congratulates Tony Kanaan on winning the 2013 Indianapolis 500 - Sunday, May 26 2013. (Photo Credit: Michael Roth for IndyCar Media)
Three-time Indy 500 winner Dario Franchitti congratulates Tony Kanaan on winning the 2013 Indianapolis 500 - Sunday, May 26 2013. (Photo Credit: Michael Roth for IndyCar Media)
Tony Kanaan`s wife Lauren celebrates celebrates after her husband wins the 2013 Indianapolis 500 - Sunday, May 26 2013. (Photo Credit: Chris Owens for IndyCar Media)
Tony Kanaan celebrates after winning the 2013 Indianapolis 500 - Sunday, May 26 2013. (Photo Credit: Eric McCombs for IndyCar Media)
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