Cradling the Baby Borg trophy in his arms, Tony Kanaan spoke to the significance of winning the Indianapolis 500 Mile Race. It had been eight months since his dramatic victory in the race punctuated by 68 lead changes among 14 drivers packed into the 200 laps, but Kanaan was no less animated in recalling his emotions.
“Everything changed when I crossed that finish line. It was overwhelming,” Kanaan said on that January evening following the trophy presentation as part of the Automotive World Congress dinner.
It wasn’t so much validation for the 2004 Verizon IndyCar Series champion but a missing piece to his motorsports career that has spanned three decades. Now that Baby Borg stands in a highly visible place of honor in his Miami home, waiting for a companion.
The opportunity to add to the collection comes May 25 (11 a.m. ET on ABC) in the 98th edition of “The Greatest Spectacle in Racing.” The 33 starters logged more than 1,400 laps on the 2.5-mile oval in the final practice session as part of Coors Light Carb Day.
Click it: Final practice results || Combined practice results
Kanaan, driving the Chevrolet-powered silver and red No. 10 Target Chip Ganassi Racing car, was fastest in the 60-minute drafting and pit stop simulation exercise with a lap of 227.838 mph. Teammate Scott Dixon, the reigning Verizon IndyCar Series champion and 2008 Indy 500 winner, was second (227.773 mph). Townsend Bell, driving the No. 6 Robert Graham KV Racing Technology car, was third on the speed chart (227.221).
Kanaan will start from the 16th position – the inside of Row 6 – while Dixon starts on Row 4 flanked by 2000 race winner Juan Pablo Montoya and rookie Kurt Busch, who is attempting to be the fourth driver to compete in the Indianapolis 500 and NASCAR race in North Carolina on the same day (and the first since Tony Stewart in 2001 to complete all 1,110 miles of racing).
A victory by Kanaan would be the first repeat since Helio Castroneves in 2002.
“It feels good to be up there today, but that’s not what it’s all about,” said Kanaan, who won last year in his 12th start. “Last year I was already happy with the car I got, but I think we've got a better car. But the field is definitely more competitive this year.”
On May 18, Ed Carpenter earned the Verizon P1 Award with a four-lap average speed of 231.067 mph – the fastest since 2003 – in the No. 20 Fuzzy’s Ultra Premium Vodka car. The field average speed of 229.698 mph is the fastest and field is the closest by time (2.1509 seconds) in history.
Castroneves, who was fourth fast in the final session (226.187 mph) and starts fourth in the No. 3 Pennzoil Ultra Platinum Team Penske car, supported Kanaan’s assessment of the enormity of the race.
"There really is no feeling like winning the Indianapolis 500. It's the biggest race in the world,” said Castroneves, who is seeking to join A.J. Foyt, Rick Mears and Al Unser as the only four-time winners. “It's hard not to think back over all that history and all the drivers that came before you to help build this place. On top of that, winning here for (owner) Roger Penske just makes it that much sweeter. He has obviously put so much into winning here that it's great when you are able to reward him with a win.
“It’s always hard to win, no matter the number. I feel right now that things are so competitive. I also feel that we’ve taken care of ourselves and are prepared better. Every step of the way seems to be going well. I have the best guys and strategists that have won races. I guess our chances should be very high."