If you're anything like me, you woke up this morning tired, a bit sunburned, sore, but still euphoric over what we witnessed yesterday.
I wrote the other day about always having hope at Indy. Every generation at the Speedway has a driver the crowd is always hopeful will win. There's Lloyd Ruby, who ran so well in the 60s and 70s, only to never take the checkered flag. In the 80s and 90s, it was Michael Andretti, who came agonizingly close, only to ultimately be denied, despite getting so close. There have been others, for other generations, from Ted Horn and Rex Mays in the 30s and 40s, to members of the Bettenhausen family, fans can mark many who never got that lucky breaak.
For many in my generation, until yesterday, that same descriptor applied to Tony Kanaan. He led in eight different 500s before this race, but never had either the car, strategy, or plain luck to win. At 38 years of age, on a team that had not won in the current incarnation of this open wheel series, the window appeared to be closing on Kanaan.
Yet, on a day where the old record for lead changes was obliterated, where drivers like Ryan Hunter-Reay, Marco Andretti, A.J. Allmendinger, and Carlos Munoz all seemingly had cars to win, Tony Kanaan took the lead at the end, when it mattered. In prior years, you get the sense he'd have been caught in the wrong place at the wrong time by the last caution flag. But his fate was different this time around.
The fans? They've always loved Kanaan, and he routinely gets the biggest cheers in pre-race introductions. This year was no different, and after the race, many more than usual stuck around for the post-race celebration. It was as popular a win as we've seen, and it went to a driver that has shown so much love and effort towards Indy. TK said when interviewed after the race that it was "for the fans", and that certainly seemed to bear out in their reactions. At long last, the hard-luck guy they'd cheered so hard for gained his place on the Borg-Warner Trophy.
Today, Tony Kanaan will do countless interviews, take tons of publicity photos, and probably pinch himself quite a few times to assure himself it wasn't a dream. One also has to suspect that a great many "Greatest 33" lists pertaining to Indianapolis drivers have been updated after yesterday. It was a 500 to remember, not just for the closeness of the racing, but for the 500 champion it created.