INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — First, Tony Kanaan ran out of fuel. Then, when the team tried to restart his engine, the starter broke. And after twice helplessly sitting on pit lane for his car to be repaired, the defending Indianapolis 500 champion never had a chance to keep the most cherished title of his career.
Kanaan's 13th start in the Indy 500 turned out to be all about bad luck.
Target Chip Ganassi's crew did get the No. 10 car back on the track Sunday, allowing Kanaan to finish 26th — 25 laps off the pace — and the second-best in Ganassi's four-car stable. But for one of Indy's fan favorites, it was just another frustrating day on the 2.5-mile oval that has given him so many problems over the years.
"We knew coming into this race that we had to be perfect," Kanaan said. "We were not, so we'll try again next year."
Kanaan won the hearts of Indy fans with his indomitable spirit following hard-luck loss after hard-luck loss in his first 11 tries to win IndyCar's biggest race.
So after finally turning the corner last year with his first 500 win, under caution, Kanaan thought perhaps those sorts of days at this track were finally over. Not a chance.
After steadily moving up the standings Sunday and briefly inheriting the lead as the drivers cycled through their first pit stops, the next time Kanaan came in, the car was sputtering and the problems were back in full force.
"We ran out of fuel," the Brazilian said, explaining the 43.4-second stop that put him in the hole.
Seven laps later, Kanaan was back in the pits for an interminably long time as Ganassi's team tried desperately to fix another problem. Kanaan sat in his car, again throwing his hands in the air and shaking his head in disbelief as he realized there was no chance of making a miracle comeback.
"When we went to restart the car, the starter ripped inside the car and we lost 18 laps," Kanaan said. "It is what it is."
Kanaan's struggles were only part of the problem Ganassi's team had this May.
None of the powerhouse team's four cars were fast enough on the first day of qualifying to make it into the pole shootout. And after finding enough speed to be competitive on the second day of qualifying, the problems resurfaced Sunday.
Ryan Briscoe was forced to pit on the second lap of the 200-lap race with a flat left rear tire. Kanaan's problems began on lap 66. Then, on lap 150, Charlie Kimball crashed in the second turn — bringing out the first yellow flag of the day — and 2008 Indy winner Scott Dixon spun coming out of the fourth turn on lap 168 and slammed into the SAFER barrier, bringing out the second caution of the day.
"All of a sudden, it just started to slide mid-pack. I tried to catch it and there was no catching it," Dixon said. "I feel really bad for the guys. We had a pretty strong car all day."
Briscoe recovered to finish 18th, the best finish among the Ganassi quartet. Dixon was 29th, Kimball was 31st, and Kanaan finished though nowhere near where he had hoped.
"Our day was pretty much over before it started with the issues we had on pit lane," he said. "When you go that many laps down, you simply cannot recover. I always say this place chooses the winner and unfortunately today she didn't choose us."