The race stayed green through the first round of pit stops. Hunter-Reay and Hinchcliffe both stopped early on Lap 28 to give themselves a clear pitlane. However, RHR caught a lucky break with traffic and as pit stops shuffled the field over the next four laps, he ended up on top with Hinch down in 6th.
For the second stint, Andretti Autotsport dominated, lead by Hunter-Reay and Indy-only driver Townsend Bell. Bell is mostly retired, only coming out for the 500. The AA Honda was by far his best 500 ride and he drove it hard, keeping it in the top 3 early and then dicing for the lead as the race approached ¼ distance.
The first caution of the day came on Lap 47 for a trash bag on the back stretch. The series took the time to send out street sweepers to remove any other garbage, as well as the “marbles” of shed rubber from the tires, opening up the racing groove for the drivers. The entire field pitted under caution and there was chaos on pit road. Will Power dove out of his pit box into the far lane and clipped Tony Kanaan. If you look closely, you can see the scuff marks on TK’s left side. The damage to both cars was only superficial, but Power was forced to start from the rear of the field for causing the collision. His team decided to bring him in just before green to top up with fuel one last time to give him maximum range.
The early going went well for Team Penske. Simon Pagenaud is the current points leader and has not finished worse than second in the opening five races of the year. He and teammate Castroneves draft with Mikhail Aleshin. These three seemed glued together most of the day, always nose to tail for the first third of the race. Pagenaud was able to jump to 2nd under the first yellow’s pitstop, but was overhauled on the restart, dropping right back to where he started: in 9th, following Aleshin and Castroneves. This was just the start of Team Penske’s misfortunes though…
On Lap 64, disaster struck defending race winner Juan Pablo Montoya (2). Montoya was the worst qualified of the Penske cars in 17th and dropped to 20th on the start where he stayed for the first two stints. After the second pitstop, his car came alive and he began to make steady progress…right until he lost it coming out of Turn 2 and nosed his Chevrolet powered car into the wall. His was the first accident of the day. Montoya was fine, but his spotless Indy record was shattered. In four 500 attempts, this was his first ever crash at the Speedway.
This set off another round of pitstops, which brought misfortune to a number of drivers. Rossi’s stop was hampered with a sticking fuel probe which added time to his stop. Thankfully this was under yellow, but the damage was done: he dropped from 13th to 20th. (Photo credit: Jeanette Zipf)