Photo: Shawn Gritzmacher
Takuma Sato (AJ Foyt Enterprises, Honda) won the season’s first pole and fourth of his career. Tony Kanaan made his Target Chip Ganassi (Chevrolet) debut by placing his car on Row 1 next to Sato, his first front-row start since the St. Pete race in 2010. Row 2 consisted of Ryan Hunter-Reay (Andretti Autosport, Honda) and Will Power (Team Penkse, Chevy). Rookie Jack Hawksworth (Bryan Herta Autosport, Honda) lined up eighth.
Hunter-Reay took second on the start, slotting in behind Sato. Power took third from Kanaan during Lap 12. Kanaan continued to fade, with Helio Castroneves (Team Penske, Chevy) taking P4 from him. Sato’s lead on Lap 24 was 5.2 sec. He pitted shortly thereafter, temporarily ceding the lead to Castroneves.
Sato retook the point when Helio pitted, chased by Power. Power made the pass for the lead during Lap 31. Castroneves ran third. Power pitted on Lap 53, with Sato reassuming the lead. Sato pitted during Lap 59, Power taking over on point. Castroneves ran second, followed by Hunter-Reay, Sato, and Mike Conway (Ed Carpenter Racing, Chevy).
Conway took fourth and then third on Lap 64. The first caution came out with 34 laps to go. Under new regulations this season, pit row closes when the yellow flies and when it opens all the cars that want to come in together, starting with the leader. Conway stayed on track and assumed the lead, with Power beating Castroneves and Hunter-Reay off pit lane, while Dixon and Kanaan leap-frogged Sato.
Conway’s failure to pit was a miscommunication. He pitted the next lap, passed the pace car by accident and lost substantial track position, restarting seventh. Power brought the field to green at an exceptionally low speed, creating a pile up behind him which led to an immediate second yellow.
Hunter-Reay passed Castroneves for P2 on the second restart.
This Top 3 held through the finish; Power, Hunter-Reay, Castroneves, Scott Dixon (Target Chip Ganassi, Chevy), and Simon Pagenaud (Schmidt Peterson Motorsports, Honda) crossing the start finish line in that order. It was Power’s third consecutive victory going back to last year.