Never say never.
There have been times in recent years when it looked as though Tony Kanaan might retire from the sport, either willingly or forced out by the lack of a deal to keep him in a race seat. If that had been the case then he'd have exited the sport without ever having been able to claim victory in the greatest spectacle in motorsport, and without ever putting his face on the Borg-Warner Trophy alongside those of his great friends Dan Wheldon and Dario Franchitti.
Whatever happens now for the popular Brazilian, that's no longer a concern.
Tony Kanaan is, finally, an Indianapolis 500 champion at the 12th time of asking and at a tender 38 years of age, and he did it in fine form. No accident or flukes here, just a completely well-deserved soaking in the traditional pint of milk to help hide the tears of joy in his eyes.
The grid had seen a full compliment of 33 cars take the green flag, after Charlie Kimball had been given the all-clear from the medics after recovering from a nasty 24-hour bug in the run-up to race day. Polesitter Ed Carpenter took point, with Marco Andretti quickly displacing Carlos Munoz from second as the race got underway in cooler and more overcast conditions than expected.
It was only four laps before the first incident, JR Hildebrand spinning out the Panther car in turns 1 and 2 while trying to pass James Hinchcliffe and going backwards into the outside retaining wall. Some of the cars further back down the order took an opportunistic chance to visit pit lane before Ed Carpenter held off Andretti at the restart, but neither were match for Tony Kanaan who was absolutely flying even at this early stage of the proceedings, leaping from 12th place into a brief lead in a matter of just a couple of laps.
After a brief revival from Carpenter, it was Kanaan and Andretti who continued to trade the top spot between themselves over the next few laps until Kanaan became the first of the leaders to come in at the end of lap 29 for fuel and tyres, signalling the first proper round of pit stops for the day. Andretti and Carpenter were in next time around, signalling a flood of cars next time around with Will Power and Simon Pagenaud among the last to make their appearance on lap 32.
No sooner had the pit stops completed than the 2.5-mile speedway was under caution, after Sebastian Saavedra got chopped and spun the Dragon Racing #6 into the wall at turn 4. As one of the drivers to have pitted early under the first caution, Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing's James Jakes was leading but once he and the others likewise off=sync came in for a second stop it was Carpenter and Andretti who were duly restored at the front for the restart on lap 43 after a prolonged yellow.
There had been early electrical problems for Charlie Kimball putting the #83 Ganassi off the lead lap. Katherine Legge went seven laps down after needing suspension repairs following a brush with the wall, while Pippa Mann's glancing impact proved more serious and put the #63 Dale Coyne Racing car out of the race. Also sidelined was Buddy Lazier with a mechanical issue, while KV Racing's Simona de Silvestro received a drive-thru penalty for running over pit equipment during her stop. At least Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing's woes were limited to the financial side rather than the track, as both received $10k fines for blend line violations.
One of the favourites for the win in this year's race, AJ Foyt's Takuma Sato - who had gone into the final lap last year battling Dario Franchitti for the lead - spun out exiting turn 2 and to his chagrin then stalled the engine, dropping him off the lead lap while getting re-fired as the third caution of the day came out that allowed the field to come in for a new round of pit stops on lap 58.
Ryan Hunter-Reay won the race off pit lane to lead Andretti, Carpenter and Kanaan at the restart on lap 61 but the pole sitter was soon back in charge of proceedings for a dozen laps before Kanaan jumped in front on lap 73 and then Will Power came on strong and took over two laps later as some of the early leaders - Carpenter and Andretti among them - started to wane and fall back as the green stint wore on.