It wasn’t pretty but Tony Kanaan and the No. 14 ABC Supply team fought adversity to claim their first top-10 finish of the year when they finished ninth in the 103rd Running of the Indianapolis 500 Sunday afternoon.
Kanaan’s teammate Matheus Leist also had to battle through some tough times finishing 15th after starting 24th at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, the 2.5 mile speedway dubbed “The Brickyard.”
At the start of the 200-lap race, Kanaan gained two spots to move into 14th while Leist gained three to move into 21st which is where they ran until the first round of pit stops on lap 35. By the halfway mark, Kanaan was running 11th and Leist 15th. A long stop for Leist triggered by overshooting his marks and compounded by a jammed gun dropped him to 21st. Kanaan dropped to 13th despite a solid stop on lap 105.
The caution came out on lap 138 for Marcus Ericsson’s spin in pit lane which proved pivotal to Foyt’s team.
The pits were closed under yellow for four laps as safety workers cleared the car. Both of the ABC Supply Chevrolets were due to stop on the lap that the track went yellow which closed the pits. Trying to avoid the penalty incurred when you pit for fuel in a closed pit, the teams stretched the fuel too far and both cars ran out of fuel and coasted slowly into their pit boxes. The pits had still not been opened for four laps, so both drivers were allowed to take on fuel only. By the time they were able to get their cars restarted—it takes time for the fuel to fill the lines after a dry tank, they had lost a lap.
Once the pits were opened, they had to stop again for full service—fuel plus tires. Their penalty would be to restart at the end of the field which dropped them to 24th and 25th. Despite the setback, neither driver gave up hope.
The yellow unfurled again on lap 178 when Sebastien Bourdais and Graham Rahal tangled in Turn 3 while battling for eighth. A secondary accident in reaction to the first took out Charlie Kimball, Felix Rosenqvist and Zach Veach.
The race was red-flagged on lap 180 to clean up the debris. As a consequence of this timely caution, both Kanaan and Leist received the wave around to get their laps back. Kanaan would restart in 13th and Leist 15th. The race restarted on lap 187 and over the next 14 laps Kanaan moved up to ninth while Leist held fast to 15th.
Meanwhile up at the front, leaders Simon Pagenaud and Alexander Rossi battled closely, with Rossi taking the top spot on lap 198. Pagenaud then took it back the following lap and cruised onto victory, his first Indianapolis 500 triumph and Team Penske’s 18th win. Pagenaud dominated the month of May, also winning the Indy Grand Prix and the pole position for the 500.
Following Pagenaud and Rossi across the line were Takuma Sato, Josef Newgarden and Will Power, giving Penske three of the top five spots.
After the roller coaster of a day, Kanaan was philosophical.
“It’s a typical day that you have to prove that you can’t give up,” said Kanaan after his 18th Indy 500. “We never gave up. We had a little bit of a mishap, we ran out of fuel under the yellow. We were too close to (having to) pit and then it went yellow and they closed the pits. That stuff happens right, you can’t predict all the yellows. We got lucky finally, we got our lap back and I got to do my magic at the end which I enjoyed the most.
“You know, we have so many ABC Supply employees and Bryant employees here; actually between them we had more than 2000 employees here today. I feel like even on my worst day, I can’t give up. So even when I was back there in 24th, a lap down, I still had to race. I still had to prove to them that we’re here and we’re trying. It paid off with a top-10. Is a top-10 what we want? Not really but after the day we had, I’ll take it.”
Leist, who had moved into 14th on the final restart only to be passed by Spencer Pigot,
said, “I feel like from everything we went through in the race, it wasn’t a bad result. We finished p15. Of course it’s not where the team wants to be, it’s not where we want to be but considering that we started 24th, we had some bad pit stops and some other things, I think we did a great job. I felt good in the car, that’s a good thing too. I could pass some people and run together with some people. I think I got a lot of experience and a lot of good fun.”
Team President Larry Foyt was able to take away a few positives from the race.
“It looked like the package made for a really challenging race for everybody,” Foyt opined. “Outside of a few laps after a restart, it was really hard to pass. Track position was just so important. When we got caught out by that yellow, I think the guys really tried to stretch the yellow mileage and not have to pit under the closed pit because you get a penalty for that. The guys were just a little bit short and ran out of fuel which put us a lap down. Nobody gave up, the guys got their laps back and Tony scored a top 10.
“Both cars looked decent but it was just tough to pass. At the very end of the race, it was exciting as the leaders hung it out and went for it with some passing there, but other than that, the race was really hard for all the drivers. Glad it was sunny all day and both cars rolled into the garage here. Matheus said he had a really good car but we just had a little bit of bad luck and made some mistakes that put us back there. We learned a lot this month and we’ll keep fighting.”
Teams will be busy this week prepping their cars for next weekend’s doubleheader in Detroit. The Chevrolet Grand Prix presented by Lear will be broadcast on NBC with both the Saturday and Sunday races starting at 3 p.m. ET.
TIL NEXT TIME, I AM STILL WORKING ON MY REDNECK!