Obviously this yellow triggered one more round of pit stops. Once again, the stops caused trouble for the front runners. Townsend Bell and Ryan Hunter-Reay were drag racing to beat each other out of the pits. To avoid RHR, Bell swung wide, right into Helio Castroneves. The contact bounced Bell into RHR and the two spun into the inside pit wall. Helio continued with no damage, but the wreck lost RHR a lap as his team ran down pit road to retrieve his car and replace the front wing. Bell also lost a lap for repairs, then a second when IndyCar handed him a stop and go penalty for causing the crash. Both drivers were gutted, especially the likeable Townsend who claimed his car was the best he’d ever driven at Indianapolis.
However one man’s misfortune is another’s boon. Both Alex Tagliani (who started last after crashing in qualifying) and Rossi elected not to pit. This gave Rossi the track position he needed to put himself back into contention. He started 2nd with Castroneves, Hinchcliffe, and Kanaan just behind as the field came down for the restart on Lap 121.
RHR’s race was pretty well over. You can see the broken winglet sustained in the pitlane crash. His crew replaced his front wing and nosecone before sending him back out, but replacing the rear wing would have to wait. RHR’s car was still quick, but losing a lap for repairs ruined any shot he had at repeating his 2014 victory.
Rossi and Tags battled for the lead briefly, but a few laps after the restart, Bell was assessed his penalty for causing the pitlane crash. This stop and go under green put him directly in front of Rossi on the track. Rossi took advantage of the draft from Bell to cruise in high gear, leaning out the fuel map, and coasting a bit on the straights. Utilizing the draft meant Rossi could tune down the car but keep up enough speed to hold the lead. Rossi pitted at Lap 138, relinquishing the lead, having stretched his tank of ethanol to 37 laps.
The race stayed green until the next round of stops at Lap 149. But just as a few leaders were coming down pit road, another yellow came out.
Buddy Lazier had been having a rough day. First, he lost 30 laps at the start of the race while his team fixed a stuck throttle. He was holding his own before he came in for his stop. However his crew didn’t seat his left front wheel nut and as he drove through Turn 1 on the warmup lane, his wheel decided it had enough and came right off. Lazier tried to drive the car back to the pits but parked it on the back stretch. His team decided to throw in the towel. The tiny, family run team had just been beaten down too many times. Buddy has competed in nineteen 500s: how many more will he be able to attempt? The spirit of the team was inspiring to old timers who remember when it was commonplace to slap together a team for May and hope for the best.