INDIANAPOLIS - Tony Kanaan had one more lap, one anticlimactic last lap under the yellow caution flag, to end 12 years of frustration in the Indianapolis 500.
He flipped up his visor to wipe away tears as the crowd roared its approval, and then in Victory Lane he gave his bride of two months a long kiss and poured the celebratory winner's milk over his head.
Kanaan is Indy's hard-luck loser no more. He is its champion at last, fittingly with a dose of good luck for a change.
"I have to say, the last lap was the longest lap of my life," Kanaan said.
The losers were pleased with the outcome Sunday, evidenced by a scene similar to rivals lining up to congratulate Dale Earnhardt when he finally won the Daytona 500 on his 20th try. Dario Franchitti, whose crash brought out the race-ending caution, stood grinning by his crumpled car, two thumbs up as Kanaan passed under yellow.
"When I saw who was leading, it cheered me up a little bit," said last year's winner. "He's a very, very deserving winner."
The fans thought so, too, standing on their feet, screaming "TK! TK! TK!" as he and team owner Jimmy Vasser went by during the traditional victory lap. It felt magical to Kanaan, like he had given the crowd at Indianapolis Motor Speedway a gift.
"It means a lot to me because so many people, I could feel that they wanted me to win, and it's such a selfish thing to do because what are they getting from it?" Kanaan said. "I'm the one who gets the trophy. I believed that this win was more for people out there than for me.
"I wanted it all my life, but over the years I was kind of OK with the fact that I may never have the chance to win."
His chance came at the end of a history-making race at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, where Kanaan knew he had to pounce at the green flag for the final restart with three laps to go. He did, zipping inside leader Ryan Hunter-Reay to roar to the lead - where he wanted to be in case another caution came out.
"I knew I had to get the lead on the restart because it could be a yellow, which happened to me plenty of times here, and it did," Kanaan said. "How funny is life? The yellow was my best friend."
Carlos Munoz, a 21-year-old rookie making his first IndyCar start, finished second and Hunter-Reay was third. The average speed was 187.433 m.p.h., another Indy record.