The odd timing of the yellow caught a few drivers off-guard. Graham Rahal and Pagenaud both had to stop for splashes of fuel before the pits were open. They ended up with penalties, as did Max Chilton and Bryan Clauson who also pitted under closed pits.
Castroneves inherited the lead and lead the field to green on Lap 157. However he quickly dropped back and only 5 laps later, he was clipped by J.R. Hildebrand fighting for 6th. The impact broke Helio's rear wheel pod. He would need a miracle to get into the pits without losing too much time. Fortunately, his lucky break came less than a lap later.
Takuma Sato clipped the outer wall coming onto the front straight and set off the caution Castroneves needed. Helio was able to pit and replace his rear wing, but was pissed. His chances of winning a 4th 500 were gone. Sato was able to drive to the pits, but his broken suspension meant his day was done. Hildebrand sustained no damage and when most of the field pitted, he remained out to take the lead. With the green flag slated to fly at Lap 167, teams all crossed their fingers, rubbed their bellies, and prayed their drivers could stretch their gas tanks 36 laps. Any amount of yellow would solve the fuel race, but if it stayed green, it was going to be a crap shoot.
With the green out, the fuel race began. Herta was in Rossi's ear the whole time: save fuel, don't lose positions. Rossi had been learning how to save fuel on the fly as the technique for saving fuel on road courses and ovals is quite different. On road courses, short shifting and carrying lots of speed through the corners is key to stretching a tank. At Indy, there is no shifting after half a lap and you're full throttle the whole way. Rossi began to lift before he got to corners and coast through them, using the draft as much as he could whenever a car was in front. Keep in mind, Rossi grew up on the European racing ladder and had only driven one other oval race before this. That race was in Phoenix and was nothing like Indy.
Kanaan took the lead less than a lap into the green, but Josef Newgarden quickly retook and held on to the top spot. He was closely followed by his Ed Carpenter Racing teammate Hildebrand, as well as Andretti driver Carlos Munoz who had been stalking the lead all day. With 15 to go, Hildebrand ducked onto pit road for a splash and dash. Kanaan followed suit on Lap 192.
Newgarden was next to blink on Lap 195. With a smoky burnout, he was on his way to chase down Rossi, Munoz, and anyone else who stood in his way.