It was a hugely popular victory at the speedway, where Kanaan had endured so much heartache. The Brazilian had led 225 laps coming into the race, more than any other non-winner besides Michael Andretti and Rex Mays, yet had never taken the checkered flag. He finished second in 2004 and twice finished third.
Now, his face will go on the Borg-Warner Trophy. Kanaan is an Indy 500 champion, coming through on a cool day of thrilling competition that smashed the record for most lead changes and most leaders.
This year's race set a record for the most lead changes - 68 - among another race-record 14 drivers.
If you thought it was a fast race, that wasn't your imagination. The average speed ended up at 187.433 MPH, the fastest Indy 500 ever.
A. J. Allmendinger made the most of his second chance from Roger Penske.
After losing his Sprint Cup ride following a failed drug test, Allmendinger was given a shot to drive for Penske in Sunday's Indianapolis 500. He qualified in the second row and, after falling back at the start, soon found himself leading the "Greatest Spectacle in Racing."
Allmendinger spent most of the afternoon running near the front, even after a seatbelt came undone and forced him to pit out of sequence. He wound up finishing seventh in his Indianapolis debut when a late wreck by Dario Franchitti forced the race to end under caution.
Graham Rahal crashed out with just seven laps to go. Other caution flags were prompted by JR Hildebrand, who hit the wall early on in the race.
"Just massively disappointed for everybody," Hildebrand said.
Sebastien Bourdais wound up stuck in the pits late in the race with a bent left front wheel.
Takuma Sato did a 360 for another caution flag.
Sebastian Saavedra scraped the wall on lap 36. Saavedra says Pippa Mann forced him into the wall.
"I'm pretty furious with race control now," Mann said in an interview. She maintains Graham Rahal moving around in front of her caused the mishap with Saavedra.
"We knew where we were meant to be ordered and I tried to put myself in that place," said Mann.
Race control issued $10,000 fines for violations by James Jake and Graham Rahal.
Simona de Silvestro got a fine for running over an air hose in the pits.
Katherine Legge brushed the wall in turn two and had a little damage.
Check out over 100 pictures from today's race in WTHR.com's Indy 500 slide show! Click here.
Other stats from IMS:
27 -- Race-record cars running at the finish, breaking 26 in 1911.
187.433 -- Average in miles per hour, a race record. Arie Luyendyk held the record of 185.981 mph since 1990. It was only the fourth time the race record has been broken.
13 -- Positions gained by Simon Pagenaud, who finished eighth, the most in the field.
4 -- Drivers who led their first laps in the Indianapolis 500.
9 -- Indy 500s led by Tony Kanaan in his 12 starts.
10 -- Finish for pole sitter Ed Carpenter, who led a field-high 37 laps.
62 -- Temperature in Fahrenheit at the green flag, tying the 1930 race for the third-coldest in the race's history.
225.954 -- Fastest lap in miles per hour by AJ Allmendinger on Lap 94.
2 -- Finish for rookie Carlos Munoz, the Firestone Indy Lights championship points leader who finished fourth May 24 in the Firestone Freedom 100. He was voted Indy 500 Rookie of the Year. It tied JR Hildebrand (2011) for highest-finishing rookie.
1. Tony Kanaan
2. Carlos Munos
3. Ryan Hunter-Reay
4. Marco Andretti
6. Helio Castroneves
7. AJ Allmendinger
8. Simon Pagenaud
9. Charlie Kimball
10. Ed Carpenter
11. Oriol Servia
12. Ryan Briscoe
13. Takuma Sato
14. Scott Dixon
15. Ana Beatriz
16. Trian Vautier
17. Simona De Silvestro
18. EJ Viso
19. Will Power
20. James Jakes
21. James Hinchcliffe
22. Conor Daly
23. Dario Franchitti
24. Alex Tagliani
25. Graham Rahal
26. Katherine Legge
27. Townsend Bell
28. Josef Newgarden
29. Sebastien Bourdais
30. Pippa Mann
31. Buddy Lazier
32. Sebastian Saavedra
33. JR Hildebrand