With 28 days remaining until the 100th Anniversary running of the Indianapolis 500, Drive Hard, Turn Left and SB Nation Indiana is starting its countdown of the Greatest 33, the ultimate Indianapolis 500 field. Fans can build their own field by clicking here. Today, Drive Hard, Turn Left & SB Nation Indiana profiles one of the most exciting drivers to hit IMS, Tony Kanaan.
The only driver to lead laps his first seven starts in the Indianapolis 500, Tony Kanaan has been one of the shining stars of the Indy Racing League/IZOD IndyCar Series era. The 2004 IndyCar champion, Kanaan has been the victim of foul weather at IMS; without it, he may have been further up the rankings as a two-time champion at Indianapolis.
The effervescent Brazilian was nearly as hard luck a loser as the owner for whom he ran in eight of his nine 500 appearances. In 2004, Kanaan led 28 laps and was running second to Buddy Rice when rain shortened the race to 180 laps. Just three years later, rain, or the lack thereof, helped keep Kanaan from Victory Lane.
After 113 laps, Kanaan led the 2007 Indianapolis 500 when the skies opened, prompting the race to be halted. With the 91st Indianapolis 500 over halfway, if rains had continued, Kanaan would have captured his first Borg Warner Trophy. Instead, a small window opened, allowing officials to dry the track; alternate pit strategies saw Kanaan pit on Lap 151, and in his haste to get back to the front of the field, Kanaan spun upon catching lapped traffic. 15 laps later, it was Kanaan's closest friend, Dario Franchitti, taking the honorary swig of milk as the race winner.
Having led 214 laps in his nine-year run at Indianapolis, Kanaan's fans were never more on edge than in the 2010 Indianapolis 500. A series of bizarre wrecks left Kanaan struggling to make the field of 33, and the driver took the green flag last in the field. However, dashing and darting through the field (as is often custom for Kanaan), the Brazilian worked his way up to second place, trailing his friend, Franchitti. Initially, the team reported that he could make the checkered flags on fuel, but Kanaan was forced to pit on Lap 191, preventing him from becoming the first driver to go from last to first in 500 history.
28 days from the 500, Kanaan is with a new team, KV Racing Technology-Lotus and will take Jim Clark's Lotus-colored No. 82 into IMS this May.
The Greatest 33:
33. Eddie Sachs
32. Michael Andretti
31. Tony Kanaan