4 September 2011
Power avoids the traps at Baltimore
By now the race had got to lap 32 and incredibly there hadn't been a significant incident or full course caution - but the first came out with a spin and stall for Tomas Scheckter in turn 3, which came at the perfect moment for Marco Andretti who was struggling with his car by this point and just metres from going a lap down.
Still with little to lose, Kanaan and Castroneves came in for a 'free' top up from 18th and 19th positions. Conway was also in, and finally the team was able to get to the root cause of his bottoming out issues - a broken front right shock. That was fixed, but Conway's car would later suffer a more serious mechanical failure and retire on lap 64
"It was obviously a very disappointing day, not with just one mechanical failure but two. It's very, very disappointing," said Conway. "We need to do our homework, and then we'll regroup for Japan."
Everyone braced themselves for the restart - but again, commendably, there were no incidents going double file into turn 1, although Graham Rahal was chastised for nearly treading on his "senior team" mate Dario Franchitti's front win on the turn-in and reminded of his Team Ganassi familial responsibilities.
But as well as turn 1 had gone, turn 3 ... didn't. Ryan Briscoe thought he had spotted a gap down the inside of Ryan Hunter-Reay into the hairpin, but the gap disappeared and Briscoe tipped Hunter-Reay into a spin - which then caused a total log jam of cars arriving into the corner and finding the road blocked.
"[Briscoe] just dumped me," said Hunter-Reay. "He bent our suspension too which should have put us out of the race. The guys did a great job to fix our suspension."
Some cars sustained collision damage in the process, with James Jakes, James Hinchcliffe and Giorgio Pantano all out of the race after a pile-up.
"I guess there was a mess with the two Ryan's up in front of us and it just caused a log jam," explained Hinchcliffe. "That corner is so tight that once you are in it there is really nowhere to go. Luckily we kept the engine running but unfortunately Jakes got in the back of us, after we got in the back of Pantano, and broke the suspension." He added: "Not the best day at the office."
In all, there were some 12 cars scattered across the track unable to find a way through, although a few - notably Tony Kanaan - sneaked their way via the tightest of inside lines to get past the blockage. However, Kanaan's joy at having made up 15 positions (23rd to eighth) with that move were dashed when race control decided that it was de facto overtaking under the yellow flags that had come out, and in the ensuing caution they forced everyone to return to the position that they had been in on the run into turn 3.
Somewhat miffed at having his windfall taken away from him, Kanaan joined the pack of midfielders and backmarkers streaming into pit lanes, at what was just about the earliest opportunity to make it all the way to the end of the race without the need for another fuel top-up if they ran a fuel conservation strategy. Kanaan had the extra benefit of having stopped only eight lap earlier, and when the team decided to go with fuel-only it meant a very quick stop that saw him exit pit road in 11th place immediately behind Oriol Servia, who was now in tenth and the highest-placed of those cars who hoped to make that tank of gas last 32 laps.
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