Meanwhile, Montoya steadily worked his way through the field. By the first pit stops on Lap 36, he was up to 21st.
Graham Rahal’s sticking transmissions hampered his qualifying and he had to battle through the field in a slower Honda. However he moved into the Top 10 using the draft to his advantage.
Hunter-Reay would be unable to defend his Indy 500 win, starting 16th, but dropping to 19th by the first stops.
Through the first 150 miles the Ganassi cars of Dixon and Kanaan were the class of the field. Pagenaud kept his Penske car right behind them, planning for the latter half of the race, making sure his car would be just right for in traffic. He would briefly lead, but let the two Ganassis re-pass, drafting them and saving fuel in the process. Rick Mears was the master of planning long races and he is still a driver’s coach for Roger Penske. Pagenaud’s race was very much a Mears-like drive.
Tristan Vautier, subbing for Carlos Huertas, was one of the early pitters on Lap 35. The rest of the field would stop soon after.
Dixon and TK would be the first of the front runners to pit. Playing it a bit conservative, they pitted on Lap 34.