"It was a disappointing day," said Bourdais. "We had a pretty good race going with a very strong start and I was passing a lot of cars making it up to 9th position. Then we had a fuel pump issue running out of fuel with still 4 gallons in the tank.
"During the first pit stop the wheel gun was not retrieved properly and ended up damaging the suspension and after that the car was never the same," he sighed. "We were 2 laps down and our day was heading south, I was trying to hang onto the car and after our final pit stop with new tyres the car was loose for no reason. At that point I knew this day was not going to end well, so we brought the car in and parked it."
Also no longer as happy with how the day was going as he had been at the start was Marco Andretti, who lost the lead and second place to Hunter-Reay and Viso on lap 62 and then suffered a stuck fuel nozzle on his pit stop on lap 68 which dropped him all the way back down the field. Then just before the 100-lap milestone, the #25 car suddenly slowed on track and came to a halt on the backstretch, triggering a yellow flag for retrieval.
"It was electrical, but I don't really have an idea," said Andretti. "The volts just went straight down, and I lost all types of power. I couldn't shift, the clutch didn't work."
The team weren't able to track down the specific reason for the problem and instead tried brute force by replacing pretty much every component it could possibly be. Even though he was 74 laps out of the running, ha came back out again later in the race and made up some extra points by finishing ahead some of the earlier DNFs.
"We came back for all the points we could," he said after finishing in 20th position. "We've been strong at Iowa in the past so we will move on and try to get points back next weekend."
In the meantime, pit tops by the leaders including Hunter-Reay, Viso and Power had allowed the early stoppers to come to the fore, with Sato having led from Castroneves from lap 69 to 90 and then resuming at the front for a second time on lap 100 when Hunter-Reay and the others adjusted their second stops to fit into the caution triggered by Andretti's woes, coming into the pits earlier than initially planned.
Sato looked to be on rails during this middle phase of the race and imperiously pulled out a four second gap on Castroneves as he surgically worked his way through the lapped traffic in a bravura performance.
Ed Carpenter came in on lap 153 after losing the battle to avoid being lapped by the leaders and nearly running up into the wall, and his stop marked the start of a new round of pit stops. Although the last caution had brought all the major players onto the same basic strategy it was still Castroneves and then Sato on lap 157 who were the first callers on pit lane. Castroneves looked set to gain the position over Sato, but the Japanese driver came out on track right ahead of the Penske #3 and was able to just hold onto the position with a little help from a backmarker (Ana Beatriz) preventing Castroneves from getting a clean run when he most needed it.
Although that had been effectively a battle for the lead, in fact Sato was down in eighth place until Hunter-Reay pitted on lap 163 and was soon followed by the others in front of the AJ Foyt car, putting the Japanese driver back out in front once more. However, the #14's handling wasn't looking nearly as strong in this stint and on lap 183 Sato got loose and took off into the marbles while running behind Charlie Kimball; while he was able to save the car, Sato now had Castroneves all over him for the lead once again as the dirty tyres and the lapped traffic ahead cost him more time.