Beyond the Game: Indy 500 winner Tony Kanaan

MILWAUKEE (WITI) -- On Sunday, May 27th, after 11 futile efforts, Tony Kanaan ended 12 years of frustration by winning the 97th Indy 500 -- a race that has always eluded him.

Kanaan got married in March, so the victory was a nice wedding present. Kanaan says it was a win filled with emotion -- after he enduring many hardships throughout his life.

At 13, Kanaan lost his father to cancer -- leaving Kanaan to provide for his mother and sister.

When he became a professional race car driver,  two of his close friends — Greg Moore and Dan Wheldon — died in racing accidents.

Then, there's Kanaan's six-year-old son, back home in Brazil. Kanaan has said his Indy trophy is destined for his son's bedroom in Brazil -- even though Kanaan's says his son chides him for not winning many races since he was born!

For Kanaan, winning the Indy 500 was a team effort that went beyond his racing crew. Close friend Alex Zanardi came from Italy to watch the race. Zanardi, who lost his legs in a 2001 car crash in Germany gave Kanaan his 2012 London Paralympics medals as good luck.

Zanardi wept behind the pit wall as Kanaan took the checkered flag.

Maybe Kanaan's first win at the Indy 500 was meant to be because another person who was with him at the Brickyard -- at least in spirit -- was a young woman whom he had visited in a hospital nine years ago. She had suffered a stroke and was in a coma.

Kanaan gave her a medal his mother had given him for his safety two decades earlier -- and the woman returned the favor in a timely fashion -- four days before the big race.

On Saturday, June 15th, Kanaan will be in the field for Milwaukee IndyFest at the Milwaukee Mile. He has two first place finishes in Milwaukee, and says it is one of his favorite tracks.