Alex Palou started today’s race from pole, the first of his IndyCar career. He did not actually make turn 1. A race later, he won the race anyway.
Palou was one of three orange cars to go off while battling for the lead in turn 1. Teammate Scott Dixon dove to the inside from third on the start and looked ready to take the position when Felix Rosenqvist came in hot and tapped the left-rear tire of Palou. Rosenqvist went hard into the runoff area, while Dixon and Palou’s respective recoveries left both Chip Ganassi Racing team cars in the turn 1 runoff as a yellow came out for other spins further back in the field. IndyCar rules dictate that cars which make the triangular chicane complex are given priority on the restart, so all three were shuffled to the back of the field and Pato O’Ward was promoted to the race lead.
The yellow that followed was inexplicably 11 laps long, stretching far enough to give the drivers that did spin an opportunity to jump onto an alternate strategy by pitting late. That group ended up including about eight cars, leaving O’Ward temporarily an entire field ahead of his main championship rivals with Graham Rahal a distant second. He and Rahal stopped on around the same schedule, then the cars that stopped earlier pitted on their own five to ten laps later. Then, two stalled cars off track brought out a less urgent caution, allowing some drivers to stop in advance of the yellow. O’Ward and a few others took this opportunity. The rest of the field, including Rahal and all of the cars that spun earlier, chose to use the extra yellow time to race to the end on just one more stop.
O’Ward would need to pass 11 cars to get back to the lead and secure a historic bi-continental weekend sweep for McLaren. Instead, he suddenly found himself down on power. He would finish 14th and lose his championship lead. All three other serious title contenders would finish in the top five. For the full story, check out this article from Road & Track.