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Who's Next?

by Robb Reel

It's often grist for the Sports Talk mill:

"[Blank] is the best [blank] never to win [blank]."

It comes up all the time.  How long did we hear "Phil Mickelson is the best golfer never to win a major"?  Then he finally won the 2004 Masters and sights turned to Sergio... who still hasn't won a major.  Virtually everyone fills in those blanks with "Dan Marino" and "Ernie Banks" when discussing the Super Bowl and World Series, respectively.  For a while, there was another foregone conclusion:

"Tony Kanaan is the best driver never to win the Indy 500."

[Reuters/John Sommers II]

Not anymore.

The 38-year-old hit the groove on a late restart, overtaking Ryan Hunter-Reay in Turn 1, just before three-time champ Dario Franchitti -- to mixing racing metaphors -- took to wreckin' and brought back the yellow flag.  Kanaan cruised the final three laps to win the 97th Indianapolis 500.  It was the fastest on record, topping Arie Luyendyk's first win in 1990.  The 68 lead changes shattered the previous record of exactly half that.  The race also saw 14 different drivers lead a lap, yet another record, but Kanaan led the most important one.

I had heard a lot of experts pick Helio Castroneves to join the elite four-Indy-wins club.  Helio did finish a respectable sixth.  They got the Brazilian part right; they just picked the wrong Brazilian.

[Photo: Reuters/Jeff Haynes]

The question now becomes: who's next?  Who is the next "best driver never to win the Indy 500"?  It's up for some debate but, for my money, the fireproof gauntlet has been thrown down squarely in front of Australia's Ryan Briscoe.

Maybe that answer changes again on Sunday, May 25, 2014.