Considering another comically amateurish start followed by a devastating, injurious crash on lap seven, the fact that the remaining able-bodied drivers somehow managed to put on a decent show at all is remarkable. Particularly in light of Robert Wickens’ unknown medical circumstances, which remained a complete mystery for a full hour before his consciousness was announced. The full extent of his wounds still isn’t known.
Photo from cbc.ca
After a two hour delay for cleanup of the massive debris field plus repairs to the fence, Alexander Rossi drove his NAPA car right up to the wall and to its limits, proving himself yet again the swiftest over 500 miles.
NBCSN’s pre-race included shots of Marco’s Palace and lots of Robin Miller. In other words, it was gaudy and odd. Another laboriously slow, bunched up start to the race from pole sitter Will Power saw Ragin’ Graham Rahal immediately run into Spencer Pigot’s right rear at the back of the field and bring out a caution. Along with the winner we predicted a crash-fest, and it sure started out that way. Power typically blamed Scott Dixon – who was deep in the field! – flashing graphs and pleading that he only did what he was told. Rahal was penalized for the first lap incident and it’s clear he needs to work on his starts, his qualifying – or both.
Photo from indycar.com
Rossi quickly passed Power for the lead on the lap seven restart. Behind them Wickens tried to get around Ryan Hunter-Reay in turn two but instead made contact, ramping over RHR’s car and spinning up into the catch fence. It was the scariest looking wreck in years. Wicken’s fellow Canuck teammate James Hinchcliffe was also caught up in the accident, as were Pietro Fittipaldi and Takuma Sato. The Canadian rookie’s car was utterly destroyed, and with a gaping hole torn in the catch fence the red flag was required. Fortunately everyone except Wickens was all right, and we’re pulling for his speedy recovery.
On replay, Wickens’ wounded car landed directly above RHR’s head, breaking his roll bar to pieces. Scott Dixon skillfully managed to pick his way through the carnage of crippled cars in a podium-saving bit of driving. During the lengthy delay an oft-muddled Michael Andretti repeatedly blamed Wickens in an interview for hitting Hunter-Reay, faulting him solely for the incident. While he’s possibly correct in that assessment, it’s still extremely unbecoming to say such things about a driver with serious – and unknown – injuries.
Photo from indycar.com
A further French delay was brought about by Sebastien Bourdais, who at first refused to race again before finally capitulating, as they so often do. Ah, those fickle Frenchmen! Once he did get back in the car they fired ’em up and the race continued, itself enjoying a speedy recovery. The second restart on lap nine saw Rossi leading Power, Josef Newgarden, rookie Zach Veach and Bourdais as they stubbornly went two wide through turn one, as if nothing had previously happened. In another unusual twist, Marco Andretti appeared almost racy at times, getting around SeBass as the field wisely settled down for the rest of the 500 miles.
A quiet day wasn’t in the cards, however, as soon Conor Daly brushed the wall, though he was able to continue and no caution was necessary. By lap seventeen Tony “Time to Call It Quits” Kanaan was in the pits and had indeed called it quits. Rossi was by this point already out to a huge lead over Power, a lead he’d rarely relinquish the remainder of the race.
Photo from ap.org
During the race IndyCar briefly sat atop Twitter’s trending list, in the U.S. at least, as pit stops commenced. Rossi remained out front after everyone cycled through, followed by Power, Newgarden, Veach and Bourdais. SeBass passed Veach for position, then soon lost it back to him in a see-saw battle the once wary Frenchman ultimately would win.
A thrilling moment of the race came on lap 71 as Dixon passed Newgarden only to have Marco instantly pass him on the high side. Seven cars were out early, due largely to the two incidents at the start and their after effects. The leaders pitted again on lap 104 with Rossi and Power occupying adjacent pits. An Andretti Autosport crewman seemingly intentionally left an air hose in Power’s way, but no action was taken by race control for what Paul Tracy rightly called “shenanigans in the pits.” A warning was issued, but no in-race penalty was forthcoming.
Rossi pitted a lap before Power his next time in, thus avoiding another fracas. Once Power pitted he came out ahead of Rossi and managed to keep the advantage for several laps. To that point, Rossi had led nearly entire race. Although NBCSN originally missed the pass of the race, replay showed Rossi go high around Power to retake point, this shortly after PT said he wouldn’t be able to. The 100th Indy 500 winner’s margin of victory was over four seconds, nearly lapping the entire field.
Daly again slid high and brushed the wall for a second time after making a bold pass, and for a second time no yellow was displayed. The stand-in Harding Racing driver then became the eighth car to retire. Rossi pitted for his final service on lap 169 giving the lead back momentarily to Power, who again pitted the next lap. But only after drifting high to avoid the always slow Max “Paris” Chilton prior to entering pit lane. Chilton’s antics cost Power a shot at his third 500 mile race in a row and third in a row at Pocono, and he held up the leaders all day.
Rossi took the checkers as both darkness and rain began to fall on the track, fittingly enough. He was joined by Power and Dixon on the podium, and for the second time in four years a pall hung over IndyCar’s victory lane at Pocono.