The crowning achievement in the career of Tony Kanaan was at last quantified on Monday afternoon as his face was finally unveiled on the Borg Warner-Trophy during a ceremony at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
The face of each winner of the Indianapolis 500 is plastered on the trophy and Kanaan is the 100th to be added to the trophy -- 100 in 97 years as the trophy also features the face of former IMS owner Anton "Tony" Hulman and a pair of races which were won by co-drivers.
"I love it," Kanaan was quoted in an IndyCar news release. "It actually looks better than myself right now. They did a good job, and it's staying there forever, so it's a good thing."
Kanaan's victory in the 500-Mile Race came in his 12th career start, tying an event record for earning a victory latest in a driver's Indy 500 career.
"I've always said in every single interview that the track, this track, picks the winner," Kanaan said. "I was always nice to the track, and I could never understand why she wouldn't pick me. I always obeyed the rules and tried to be nice."
Affectionately called "T.K." by the IndyCar faithful, Kanaan is one of the more beloved drivers in the history of the sport and his breakthrough in the race was one of the more heartwarming moments in Indianapolis 500 history.
"The Indianapolis Motor Speedway fan loves Tony Kanaan not because of where he's from or who he is, but how he competes on the racetrack, and how he emotionally speaks about the Indianapolis Motor Speedway when he gets out of the race car," said J. Douglas Boles, Indianapolis Motor Speedway president. "We're really excited about today and the opportunity to celebrate a guy who probably should have been a champion here before now, and I'm just excited that his face will live on the Borg-Warner Trophy for many years to come."
Beyond the fame and prestige of winning the 500, Kanaan was most thrilled about the chance to be immortalized in motorsports history alongside two of his closest friends, Dario Franchitti and the late Dan Wheldon, who was killed in a racing accident early in the 2011 season finale at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.
Wheldon won the 2011 Indianapolis 500, followed by Franchitti's third and Kanaan's first the next two seasons.
"To have the three of us in a row is like somebody had a script a long time ago, and they said that this is what's going to happen. With such a tragic end of Dan's career and with Dario retiring, it's an honor to be right beside them."
Kanaan won the race with KV Racing this May but will move on to Chip Ganassi Racing next season where he was set to team with Franchitti before his forced retirement following a scary accident on the last lap of the Grand Prix of Houston. As a result, Kanaan will now become the veteran driver and expected leader of the team.
"I'm excited, obviously," Kanaan said. "It is one of the best teams in the series, and I'm really looking forward to it. It's one of those things that you can never expect it when people think you're done and you go back and turn the situation around, so I'm really glad that Chip is giving me the opportunity, and I'll definitely make the best out of it."
Kanaan has 16 career wins and 14 poles in 276 Indy car starts between CART and the IndyCar Series.