“Problems, Problems, Problems…”

Pitting caused problems for many drivers at the Indianapolis 500. [Russ Lake Photo]

Pitting caused problems for many drivers at the Indianapolis 500. [Russ Lake Photo]

Winner Alexander Rossi and the stretching of his fuel supply was truly the upset story here at the 100th running of the Indianapolis 500 today.

But sometimes the winner wins because of problems encountered by others. And believe me, there were several candidates for the “Problems, Problems, Problems…” award.

There was 2015 500 winner Juan Pablo Montoya finishing in last place. Former winners Carpenter and Lazier, Karam, and perhaps oddest of all teams that would have trouble, Penske Racing, celebrating its 50-year anniversary, finishing 10th, 11th, 19th and 33rd.

Montoya a fan favorite and one of Penske’s army of contenders was trying to become a three-time winner when Turn 2 spoiled his and The Captain’s day early. “People in race cars do a lot of dumb things (referring to other drivers) and we were being careful. I started making up some ground (he started 17th) and the car was pretty good. It was really sloppy, but it felt okay. I went into Turn 2 with a big push and when I got on the gas it just came around.
The hit was no big deal and not that bad actually. When the clouds came over the track my car came to life and that’s what we were hoping for.” But it wasn’t to be even though clouds over the track could have actually been helpful. He finished 33rd, after finishing just 63 laps.

Other Penske team gaffs today included Simon Pagenaud being sent to the rear on a restart due to a pit speed violation. Helio Castroneves having a damaged wheel pod and needing to come the pits to replace the entire rear wing assembly. And, not to be outdone, Will Power was also sent to the rear on a restart for an unsafe pit release. That’s batting 1000 for the team.

Ryan Hunter-Reay and Townsend Bell are teammates of race-winner Alexander Rossi at Andretti Autosport, and they started the 500 in the second row. But they committed the cardinal sin in motorsports; they ran into each other-in the pits!

The two AA drivers pitted under yellow on Lap 117 after exchanging the lead on the previous four laps. Upon trying to exit their adjacent pit boxes the two spun after Bell made contact with Castroneves who was driving past.

Third-place finisher Josef Newgarden described the incident that took Bell and Hunter-Reay out of contention. “I think they (Andretti Autosport) did a great job. Honda has been a very strong opponent this month. They’ve been very tough to beat. Andretti Autosport has been no slouch. I think Hunter-Reay was one of the guys to beat today. Fortunately he took himself out of the equation, which I thought was great. I didn’t see what happened. Maybe it was Townsend’s fault.”

1996 500 winner Buddy Lazier didn’t even take the green flag on Lap 1 as a stuck throttle on the first pace lap sent him to the pits, returning later only to lose a wheel after a pit stop. “Our throttle was stuck wide open on the first pace lap so I smoked the tires several times trying to get it to free-up. I was able to nurse it back to the pits and the guys got to work on it.”

Then after running 100 laps, Lazier lost the left front tire that came loose after a pit stop. “I got to the warm-up lane in Turn 1 after our last stop and the wheel flew off and went rolling down the track. Obviously it wasn’t fully on. We tried to persevere and make the best of the day after the stuck throttle. We will run better in the future.”

Each of these teams and drivers may run better in the future, or there again may be demons lurking just around Turn 2.

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