Tony Kanaan a popular winner of the Indy 500

Popular racer Tony Kanaan wins his first Indy 500 after 12 tries. (Photo: mstakin)

The 2013 Indianapolis 500 went to the popular Brazilian driver Tony Kanaan in his 12th try. He drove past Ryan Hunter-Reay on a restart Sunday with three laps to go, and then coasted across the finish line under yellow when defending Indy 500 champ Dario Franchitti crashed far back in the field.

It was a hugely popular victory at the speedway, where Kanaan has come so close so many times only to lose in the end. The Brazilian had led 221 laps coming into the race, more than any other non-winner besides Michael Andretti and Rex Mays, yet had never taken the checkered flag. He finished second in 2004 and twice finished in third.

But his luck changed on Sunday as the emotional Kanaan was crying on the final lap and as he made his way to Victory Lane. Meanwhile, crews from other teams were lining up to congratulate Kanaan on his win.

Now, his face will go on the Borg-Warner Trophy. Kanaan is an Indy 500 champion, coming through on a cool day of thrilling competition that smashed the record for most lead changes and most leaders.

Kanaan is a Bay Area favorite as a regular at Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg. He was very successful in St. Pete where he finished in the top five every year from 2005-09 before leaving the Andretti Autosport group. A team where he had won four series championships in nine years but the lack of a sponsor sent him looking for another team.

He has become the lead driver for KV Racing Technology, which has been around IndyCar racing for a decade. Kanaan has been competitive but has not seen the success he had with Andretti. But that just made the Indy 500 win Sunday more special for the fan favorite.

Next up for IndyCar is a road course in Detroit and their first ever double header. The two races will take place Saturday June 1st and Sunday June 2nd both starting at 3:30 p.m. ET and airing on ABC.