For the Ganassi team, it was the best of times and the worst of times. Max Chilton, another ex-F1 driver, wasn’t having the best afternoon. He only started 15th and was able to move up to 14th on the start, but soon began to fall through the field. 15 laps in, and he was down to 26th.
The first pit stops came at Lap 28, with TK leading the way, followed shortly thereafter by Dixon, Rossi, and most of the field. This allowed JR Hildebrand (seen above) and Juan Pablo Montoya to lead for a lap each as the field cycled through the pits.
While the pit stops themselves went rather smoothly, some cars gambled a little too far with fuel. Those included Montoya and Jay Howard above. Montoya made it onto pit lane before running out of fuel and was able to stay on the lead lap, but Howard ran out in Turn 4 and had to coast all the way into the pits. He was able to make the pit entrance, but lost a ton of time and dropped from 18th to dead last, a few laps down.
Ed Carpenter inherited the lead after the first round of pit stops, but Rossi soon overtook Carpenter on Lap 35. He wasn’t able to lead for very long as Fernando Alonso picked up a great draft on Ed Carpenter to take second, and used the momentum to draft Rossi and snatch the lead heading into Turn 1 a lap later! The Formula 1 rookie, who had never driven on an oval a month before, was leading the Indy 500! Alonso and Rossi traded the lead for the next few laps, with Carpenter third, unable to touch the quicker Hondas.
On lap 53, a huge gasp erupted from the crowd. We turned around to see a car upside and in the air, landing on its lid and bursting into flames. The back half of the car had split away and as the tub skidded along the South end short chute, it flipped right side up again. That car contained Scott Dixon.
Jay Howard had run high letting Ryan Hunter-Reay lap him, and got into the marbles. He brushed the wall coming out of Turn 1, which broke his suspension. His car drifted to the inside of the track and Dixon hit it at full speed, unable to avoid the stricken Honda. Helio Castroneves dove underneath the tumbling car of Dixon and somehow managed to get through, breaking his front wing as he bottomed on the infield grass. The Holmatro safety team was on the cars of Dixon and Howard within seconds.