Tony Kanaan delivered for The American Legion in the 106th Indianapolis 500 with an impressive third-place finish in the No. 1 “Be The One” Honda for Chip Ganassi Racing.
It completed a spectacular month for Kanaan and The American Legion after the 2013 Indianapolis 500 winner qualified sixth and finished third in during Memorial Day Weekend at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
Chip Ganassi Racing teammate Marcus Ericsson won his first Indianapolis 500 when he held off Pato O’Ward of Arrow McLaren SP and Kanaan on a two-lap dash to the checkered flag.
“I was feeling good, and I thought I could get Marcus Ericsson on the restart,” Kanaan said. “Unfortunately, we couldn’t do it. The team did a good job.”
Kanaan drove a smart race at the beginning and that allowed him to be in position to battle for the win at the end of the race.
“This is me – I leave it all out there,” Kanaan said. “I don’t save anything. I’m proud. I hope the veterans are proud. The Legion is proud and the ‘Be The One’ campaign doesn’t stop today. We are going to continue promoting this all year long and try to save one veteran per day.
“I know I still got this. I just want to come back. I hope I can come back, but it’s not up to me. I’ll go back, Chip Ganassi, Honda, The American Legion, anybody that I can, to come back.”
While Kanaan could celebrate a top-three finish, The American Legion’s centerpiece driver of their INDYCAR effort had to battle in his first Indianapolis 500. Seven-time NASCAR Cup Series champion Jimmie Johnson started 12th in the No. 48 Carvana/American Legion Honda but immediately fell back to 16th on the opening lap. During the first fuel stint, Johnson’s car fell deeper in the pack as he complained that his car would not handle on the 2.5-mile Indianapolis Motor Speedway oval.
Johnson would later crash hard into the Turn 2 wall at a near head-on angle with just six laps to go. Although he was treated and released from the IU Health Infield Care Center, Johnson’s arms and hands were scraped and wounded as he congratulated his winning teammate, Ericsson.
“It was a challenge,” Johnson said. “I really thought we were going to be better in traffic than that. Unfortunately, we weren’t as good as we could be. In my aggression going forward, I made mistakes trying to get past and really just had a hell of a time advancing.
“I lost the car out of the short chute into Turn 2, and it might have been a wind gust because I had not had an issue over there all month.”
Despite his 28th place finish, Johnson loved the experience of his first Indianapolis 500 – which included leading two laps.
“It’s amazing,” he said. “It’s the Indianapolis 500. I loved it. I had a great time. Without a doubt, it exceeded my expectations.
“I want to come back next year, absolutely.”