At 3:45, the field was given the command to start engines. Scott Dixon’s car did not immediately fire, but his Chip Ganassi team was able to quickly get the issue solved and a few minutes later he was underway and able to rejoin the field in his original 4th place starting position. With the field gridded up, the tension was in the air. All three previous runnings of the Indy GP featured a massive accident going into Turn 1. A long straight followed by an off-camber braking zone is always a recipe for disaster. Would there be another pileup this year?
The field was given the green and streamed down Indy’s famous main straight. Power locked up a bit going into Turn 1, but held the inside line, fending off an outside charge from Castroneves.
Going into Turn 2, the lead was held by Will Power, tailed closely by teammate Helio Castroneves. Dixon was able to slip under Newgarden going into Turn 1 and stole away 3rd place from the young American. The field was able to make it through the first two turns cleanly. The race was on!
However, things didn’t stay so rosy for long. Going down Hulman Boulevard and into Turn 7, Marco Andretti clipped Tony Kanaan and both went into the grass, taking rookie Ed Jones with them. All three were able to continue, but the punt punctured Kanaan’s left rear tire and he was forced to pit, losing nearly a lap as he came in for fresh tires. Andretti was handed a drive through penalty a few laps later for causing the crash. Because all three were able to keep going, only a brief local yellow was thrown.
Sebastian Bourdais was having a great run. After qualifying 6th, he fended off a massive charge by fellow Frenchman Pagenaud, and was working on Montoya ahead. However just after crossing the yard of bricks for the fourth time, he pulled off into the escape road in Turn 1, his Honda engine oozing vital fluids. He would be the first DNF of the day. After such an amazing start to the year, Bourdais has had two early DNFs, the first at Phoenix from being caught in a first corner crash, and now at Indy with the blown motor, cutting deeply into his points tally.
The first round of pitstops started on Lap 20. Aside from a dropped lugnut by Hinchcliffe’s team, and Spencer Pigot stalling on his exit, the pits didn’t deliver much action. Strategy was already coming into play though. While most of the front runners went from Firestone reds to blacks, Castroneves’ team elected to keep him on reds in hopes of gapping Power before the next pitstop. This would mean Helio would be forced to use the blacks later in the race, but the gamble could get him the track position he needed. IndyCar mandates that during a dry race, each car must use both types of tire for at least two green flag laps.