26 May 2013
2013 Indy 500: Tony Kanaan makes it to victory lane - at last!
As a new round of pit stops loomed it was Power leading Kanaan, Hunter-Reay, AJ Allmendinger, Andretti, EJ Viso and Carlos Munoz leading the race. Power surrendered the lead for his stop on lap 89 and the rest of the field cycled quickly through so that on lap 92 the sequence was complete and Kanaan was in front ahead of Hunter-Reay and Viso, Power having fallen back to seventh in the pit shuffle during which Jakes received a drive-thru for a safety violation after making contact with one of his pit crew.
Just before the midway point of the race, there was a new leader at the front - Indy 500 rookie AJ Allmendinger, having overcome early issues with gearing ratios and too much downforce, was having a phenomenal run and became the ninth leader of the race following 29 lead changes - already close to the track record of 34 for the entire 500 miles - after setting the fastest lap of the race so far at 225.9mph. The last time that he'd led at Indianapolis Motor Speedway was in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Brickyard 400 race in 2008.
Allmendinger's run in front came to an unfortunate end on lap 113 when he was forced to pit when his seat belt came loose, the stop putting him a lap down and landing the lead to Kanaan, Andretti, Hunter-Reay and Viso with three-time winner Helio Castroneves in hot pursuit. Despite the long green stint, the top 19 cars were still running within five seconds of the front as a new round of pit stops neared as triggered by Kanaan and Andretti coming in first on lap 122.
Townsend Bell and James Hinchcliffe were the last to come in and pit on lap 125 - coincidentally breaking the old record for lead changes in the process while also equalling the record of 12 different leaders in the Indy 500 - and the lead was back in Marco Andretti's hands ahead of Hunter-Reay, Kanaan, Viso, Castroneves and Carpenter. The Andretti Autosport trio continued to rotate the lead between themselves while the fourth member of the line-up, James Hinchcliffe, survived contact with the wall which nearly bounced him into the path of fellow Canadian Alex Tagliani while running in the midfield.
After that unfortunate unscheduled pit stop earlier on, an off-sync Allmendinger was back in the lead on lap 137 in a race which saw the top nine cars running within 2.5 seconds of one another - and every single one of them a Chevrolet, the highest Honda car at this point being Scott Dixon in tenth place, confirming just how much the engine wars had swung in Chevy's favour in 2013.
Still disadvantaged by being knocked off his pit strategy but by no means out of contention for the win as a result, Allmendinger was in for his next stop at the end of lap 143 which briefly allowed Castroneves to lead - the 13th different man in front, another new record, as lead changes hit 45 and counting for the day when Marco Andretti popped back in front a lap later before his own pit stop on lap 152 to signal the start of a few fuel and tyres cycle. The one driver to have been seriously adversely affected by the penultimate round of pit stops of the day was EJ Viso, who stalled and fell to the back of the lead lap in 25th place as a result.
Once that all shook out, Marco Andretti was back fighting with team mate Ryan Hunter-Reay for the lead with Allmendinger in third ahead of Munoz, Kanaan and Carpenter, everyone with one stop to make although Allmendinger's schedule would mean his would be earlier, and take longer for additional fuel. However the good news was that no one was looking at an aggressive fuel conservation strategy at this stage: Allmendinger certainly wasn't saving anything at this stage, and on lap 165 he went back in front again for a period just to make the point.
Alex Tagliani and Townsend Bell were both forced to pit early after being bitten by the wall in separate incidents, and on lap 174 it was Allmendinger's turn to make his crucial final stop; Kanaan and Andretti were still trading the lead but super-rookie Carlos Munoz was also moving right into the thick of things, not having put a foot wrong so far all afternoon. hat couldn't be said about the vastly more experienced Sebastien Bourdais, who locked up his brakes coming onto pit road for his final stop only to snap the #7 Dragon car into the wall and crumple the front left suspension.
With fewer than 20 laps to go, the final pit stops played out and Kanaan was left at the head of the field trading the lead back and forth with Hunter-Reay ahead of Andretti and Munoz with Justin Wilson coming on strong in the closing stages with the fastest lap of the race to put him into fifth ahead of Helio Castroneves, Allmendinger having dropped back to ninth place with his need for extra fuel compared to the others but still only 2.7s off the lead all the same.
Then just when it looked as through the race was going to finish with a near-140 lap green flag run to the flag, Graham Rahal lost the rear of the #15 out of turn 2 and spun across the track and into a heavy hit with the inside wall to bring out the caution flags and set up a grandstand three-lap shoot-out finish to the Indy 500.
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