Montoya's stop was, as expected, quick and smooth and the Colombian resumed the race on a clear track and well within reach of the yet-to-stop leaders. However as Montoya started his 30th lap the gear change in his Lola-Toyota became increasingly stiff. By the Carousel turn it was clear that the gear linkage had a terminal problem and the despairing Colombian was left to slowly make his way back to the pits and retire for the third race in succession.
As the drama continued to unfold it was Fittipaldi who suddenly became the man to watch, the Brazilian looking for a successful defence of his Motorola 200 crown swept past Fernandez for second into the first corner on lap 31.
However Christian's continual appalling luck continued at the end of the lap as he made his second pit-stop. As the re-fuelling man went to work, a small fire underneath the car erupted and it was exit stage right for the distraught driver.
With the CART field looking more and more sparse each time around, Tagliani was being more and more careful with preserving his car and made his second pit stop with a good degree of caution. However in another almost fictional twist of fate, the Forsythe machine suddenly had no gears on the run down to Turn Five and Tagliani was pushed away.
Amidst the confusion Tracy emerged as the new race leader on lap 38 after previously overtaking Fernandez for second place, the two veterans running side by side along the start/finish straight in a great show of wheel to wheel action.
Once ahead Tracy proceeded to pull out a ten second advantage over Fernandez, helped in no small part by the lapped car of Oriol Servia who proved to be a very stubborn obstacle to overcome for several of the leaders. Jimmy Vasser, Kenny Brack and Roberto Moreno remained closely packed and kept the pressure on Fernandez up for many laps. Franchitti continued to battle his gradually increasing gearbox problem in sixth place while Tony Kanaan, Mark Blundell and the impressive Memo Gidley continued their almost race long battle for seventh. Max Papis was an uninspired tenth ahead of the delayed Castroneves and Servia. No-one else was left.
Franchitti's cruel luck continued on lap 43 when his gearbox gave up completely although the Scot was left with the scant consolation of a single point for twelfth place.
Tracy began the final round of stops on the same lap as his team-mate's demise and emerged from the pits some five seconds behind Moreno in what was now fifth place. Over the next two laps Fernandez, Brack and Vasser all pitted with the Swedish rookie managing to beat the American out of the pitlane for fourth place.
With Moreno being able to squeeze more miles out of his tank at almost every single race, the crowd began to cotton on to the fact that the wily Brazilian may have pulled the ultimate masterstroke and had saved enough fuel to complete the race on two stops. That scenario seemed unlikely as the organisers had added an extra 20 laps to the race distance to ensure that teams would have to make three stops. However as the laps wound down and Moreno showed no intention of coming in, the tension began to rise. Tracy's crew had put just enough fuel in to get him to the finish and so he was unable to charge, despite being on new tyres and the gap between the leaders remained at around four seconds.
Moreno's bubble burst on lap 51 when his fuel tank finally cried enough and the Brazilian was forced to pit. Despite being at rest for just six seconds, the delay coming in and out of the pits cost him more than twenty seconds, by which time Tracy, Fernandez and Brack had all gone through.