"I just thought he needed it more now than I did," said Andrea Braun Irwin after she became a major sidebar story on Sunday to one of the most popular victories in the history of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
Seemingly always followed by a black cat at the Speedway, popular Tony Kanaan ended 11 years of frustration by winning the 500 on his 12th try. And when it was over, amid waves of jubiliation, he displayed in Victory Lane two medals, one of them given to him by Andrea Irwin.
The story dates back nine years when Andrea, a student at Bellmont High School, was in a coma in critical condition at Indianapolis Methodist Hospital after a blood vessel in her brain had burst. Kanaan, a Brazilian in town for the 500, visited Andrea at the hospital and gave her mother, Sharon, a medal for Andrea, who was scheduled for surgery the next day.
Further details in today's print and e-editions.