Event Coverage: 2016 Indianapolis 500 Presented by PennGrade Oil


Alexander Rossi was one of our dark horse picks to win the race and when he crossed the finish line first, he absolutely deserved it.  Rossi and his Andretti Autosport teammates have been quick all month long, but Rossi's speed, combined with race strategist and owner Bryan Herta's brilliant strategy call, put the Californian rookie in Victory Lane.  The basic headline you've most likely heard is he saved enough fuel to barely coast over the finish line, but that only scratches the surface of what Rossi and the Herta/Andretti Autosport contingent pulled off.
Rossi's race, just like his 32 fellow competitors, started with the familiar 11 rows of 3.  It is one of the most spectacular sights in all of racing, seeing those pristine cars line up before going into battle.  In the third row, Helio Castroneves' car stalled as he left the grid.  His Penske team was able to quickly refire the car and he retook his starting position half a parade lap later.  
Only one row behind, Rossi was starting in 11th.  His pace made him the fasest rookie in the field.  In fact, he only barely missed out on the Fast 9 during Saturday qualifying.  NAPA is a brand new sponsor to the team.  How new?  While most Indy deals come together well in advance, Rossi's car was still sponsorless during the Indy GP.
With the green flag in the air, the field streamed into Turn 1.  Unlike last year's race, the field made it through Turns 1 and 2 cleanly.  Polesitter James Hinchcliffe lead down the back straight, but former teammate Ryan Hunter-Reay passed Josef Newgarden on the outside of Turn 1, drafted Hinchcliffe, and took the lead going into Turn 3.
RHR would lead the first lap, as well as the second.  The draft is strong at Indy and as they started Lap 3… 
…Hinch came back and re-took the lead!  This back and forth continued for the next 50 laps, with neither driver able to lead more than 2 consecutive laps before being overtaken.  It was pretty obvious each was feeling out the other and planning for the end.  Much like the best Daytona 500s, as well as last year’s Indy 500, it seemed early on that whoever made the perfect pass at the end of the race could win it.
Rossi bounced between 11th, 12th, and 13th during the first stint.  The team strategy was to play it cool early and get through the first half of the race with a clean nose.

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