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A massive, nine-car crash heading into Turn 3 prompted a red flag stoppage of the race on Lap 154.
The incident was triggered by contact principally involving James Hinchcliffe, who was sandwiched between Schmidt Peterson Motorsports teammate Mikhail Aleshin on the outside and Tony Kanaan of Chip Ganassi Racing on the bottom. Hinchcliffe’s car darted right and up the 24-degree banking, collecting the cars of Ed Carpenter Racing teammates Ed Carpenter and JR Hildebrand, Dale Coyne Racing’s Tristan Vautier and Ed Jones, Ryan Hunter-Reay of Andretti Autosport, Scott Dixon of Chip Ganassi Racing and Carlos Munoz of A.J. Foyt Racing.
Hinchcliffe placed the blame squarely on Kanaan _ the 2004 winner here _ moments after team-owner Chip Ganassi defended his driver and questioned Hinchcliffe’s in-race judgment.
“Tony drove me straight into Mikhail,” Hinchcliffe retorted. “Tony’s one of the best in this type of racing and normally a guy I trust my life with. Today he wasn’t driving respectfully and took out half the field. It’s unfortunate it’s become a pack race. There’s so much grip on the track we went back to that type of racing. Everybody was flat-out…that’s old school racing. That’s exciting to watch.”
However, the “Big One” trimmed the 22-car field to 11 with 94 laps remaining. Team Penske’s Will Power was in the lead on pit road, followed by Max Chilton of Chip Ganassi Racing and Simon Pagenaud of Team Penske. Kanaan was fourth with Josef Newgarden of Team Penske in fifth. Defending event champion Graham Rahal of Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing was ninth.
Before the race went green, INDYCAR announced a competition caution _ a mandatory pit stop for four tires _ after 30 green flag laps.
Earlier, oval-track specialist Carpenter brought out the third caution when his No. 20 Fuzzy’s Premium Vodka Chevrolet spun near the exit of pit lane on a restart on Lap 102. Carpenter did a 360 on the track’s apron…eliciting comparisons to Danny Sullivan’s “Spin and Win” en route to victory in the 1985 Indianapolis 500. Carpenter pitted for four new tires and restarted 17th on Lap 107.
Helio Castroneves’ bid for a fifth win at TMS ended on Lap 91, when his No. 3 AAA Insurance Team Penske Chevrolet darted from the racing line into the outside Turn 2 SAFER Barrier. Flying sparks as the left side of the car ground the pavement indicated either a parts breakage or flat left rear tire. The car came to rest along the inside wall further down the backstretch.
Castroneves remained in the cockpit for several minutes before being removed with the help of the Holmatro Safety Team. The popular Brazilian walked to the ambulance without help.
Team Penske’s Will Power led the charge into the pits, trailed by teammate Simon Pagenaud. That pair retained the lead on pit-out, followed by Chip Ganassi Racing’s Tony Kanaan and Scott Dixon and Mikhail Aleshin of Schmidt Peterson Motorsports.
During the sequence, INDYCAR officials announced they were reviewing an incident between Dixon and the No. 19 Dale Coyne Honda of rookie Ed Jones. However, no action was taken.
The night’s first yellow waved on Lap 38, when Alexander Rossi wound up in the Turn 3 wall after being squeezed by Kanaan and Dixon. Rossi’s No. 98 Andretti Autosport/Curb Honda spun and hit the wall with the driver’s side.
“Scott made it three-wide and there’s two lanes here, not three,” said Rossi, the 2016 Indianapolis 500 champion. “It was unnecessary and unfortunate.”
Vautier of Dale Coyne Racing led the field into the pits, followed by Newgarden and teammate Power. Exiting the pits, Hinchcliffe lost rear end traction in his No. 5 Arrow Schmidt Peterson Honda and collected Castroneves as he drove down the inside lane. Castroneves then hit the No. 26 Andretti Autosport Honda of reigning Indy 500 champion Takuma Sato.
Sato’s crew was forced to change the front nose of his car, putting him a lap down. Castroneves was able to return to the track ahead of the pace car but later complained of a vibration. The incident was reviewed by INDYCAR officials, who assessed Hinchcliffe a drive-thru penalty for avoidable pit lane contact.
That wasn’t the only infraction, as Newgarden and Hildebrand were flagged for speeding penalties.
During the same sequence, pole-sitter Charlie Kimball’s No. 83 Tresiba Honda developed an engine oil leak, ending his race after 41 laps. Rossi finished 22nd; Kimball officially finished 21st.