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Though the crowd roared with approval each time Kanaan crossed the yard of bricks in first, not everyone was happy with how Kanaan got there.

“He almost pulled it off,” said Rahal, the 1986 Indy winner and now Sato’s team owner. “You know 10 laps from the finish, are the officials going to black flag you? That’s what he was counting on. If you have a normal restart, there’s no way in hell you can go from sixth to first.”

Officially, IndyCar’s scoring sheet listed Kanaan in fifth at the time of the move, and despite an in-race protest from Rahal, series officials opted not to penalize Kanaan.

But being in the lead was penalty enough.

Over the next several laps, Kanaan and Franchitti, ex-teammates with Michael Andretti’s team, traded leads until a crash knocked out Marco Andretti on lap 188.

When the race restarted on lap 195, Kanaan and almost everyone else in Gasoline Alley knew what was coming.

“It was sort of like me in 2006,” Michael Andretti said. “I think Tony knew deep down it would be hard to hold them off.”

It was impossible.

With the hard-charging Ganassi cars cutting inside, both swiftly moved past Kanaan and Sato did the same thing on the next lap. That made it a three-man race to the finish line with Kanaan back in that unlucky No. 4 spot and forced Kanaan to find something to savor other than his first trip to Victory Lane.

“He (Wheldon) is probably laughing his butt off right now and his three best friends finishing one, two, three. What a great way to finish this race,” Kanaan said. “Obviously so close again. I’m happy. I lost many times here, but to lose it this way, battling until the end, it’s not a loss.”