Polesitter Josef Newgarden made a fine start and took the drafting Jack Harvey in they Meyer Shank Racing-Honda with him, leaving Colton Herta vulnerable to a pass from Will Power into Turn 5. but Herta re-passed him up the short drag to Turn 6 and Power lost momentum enough to cede fourth place to Alex Palou’s Chip Ganassi Racing-Honda.
Behind Power, Romain Grosjean (Dale Coyne Racing with RWR-Honda), the Andretti Autosport-Hondas of Ryan Hunter-Reay and Alexander Rossi and Arrow McLaren SP-Chevrolet’s championship leader Pato O’Ward moved up a place as Simon Pagenaud dropped from sixth down to 10th, just ahead of Scott Dixon. Rossi, O’Ward and Dixon had elected to take the favored primary tires for the opening stint.
Palou dived up the inside of Herta to claim third at Turn 1 on Lap 6.
By Lap 8, Newgarden’s lead was out to 3sec, while Palou was applying the pressure on Harvey, within 0.7sec. The pair of them had dropped Herta to the tune of 3sec, while Power was just 1sec behind the Andretti driver and a similar distance ahead of Grosjean. However, at the start of Lap 10, Power passed Herta who then immediately came under pressure from Grosjean, who passed Herta up the hill into Turn 6 on Lap 11.
Power pitted at the end of Lap 11,to take on blacks, as did Grosjean, Herta, O’Ward (switching to reds) and Pagenaud. The next time by, Harvey pitted and as he emerged he was in Power’s sights. The Penske driver outbraked him on the outside at Turn 5 and grabbed the spot.
Newgarden stopped on Lap 13, while Palou went to 14, and Dixon to 15.
At the same spot a lap later, Marcus Ericsson, who had been running 12th, ran wide, spun and stalled, requiring a second caution.
Everyone ducked into pitlane, and Newgarden, Palou and Power emerged in the same order, but Rossi emerged in fourth
Staying out were debutant Kevin Magnussen in the Arrow McLaren SP, the lapped Sebastien Bourdais and Takuma Sato. There were nailbiting moments after the green flag as Palou drew alongside Newgarden in Turns 1 and 3 but the erstwhile leader prevailed. Likewise Power had to stave off Rossi, not helped by the lapped Johnson who was trying his best to stay out of the way, but Rossi got held up just enough to lose out to teammate Herta.
The man really on the move after the restart was Graham Rahal who demoted Dixon, Hunter-Reay, Grosjean and O’Ward to rise to ninth, the latter two then getting locked in battle. Up front, O’Ward’s temporary teammate Magnussen was doing a decent job of holding off Sato, although he did run wide at Turn 5 when he let Bourdais unlap himself.
However, Sato passed Magnussen for the lead at Turn 5 on Lap 31, and this pair were artificially backing up Newgarden to Palou and Power, and although Magnussen ducked into the pits at the end of that lap, Newgarden still had to defend down the front straight. Power, meanwhile, could do nothing about holding off Herta. Next time by, Rossi also passed Power around the outside of Turn 5.
Sato finally pitted off-sequence at the end of Lap 33, allowing Newgarden to claim fourth. However, then Magnussen’s car died on the exit of Turn 8.
Harvey, the ECR-Chevys of Daly and Askew and Pagenaud pitted under this yellow, banking on fuel-saving – or more caution periods, or rain (which was threatening) reducing the fuel consumption.
Newgarden led the well-behaved crocodile of cars into Turn 1 at the green flag on Lap 38, but Grosjean dived down the inside of Rahal at Turn 5 to claim sixth. Behind the RLL-Honda, Dixon, Jones and O’Ward ran eighth through tenth, but Dixon pitted at the end of Lap 39 for his final scheduled stop. That prompted Newgarden and Power to stop next time by, leaving Palou with a 2sec lead over Herta until next time by when both – along with Rossi, Grosjean, and Rahal – also ducked in. Palou emerged still behind Newgarden, while Dixon on warm alternate compound tires was able to blast by Rossi on the run to Turn 5. The other driver on reds was Rahal, who had to get his elbows out to stop Grosjean passing him at Turn 8, but the Coyne driver got past him again on Lap 43.
Up front were the off-strategy Max Chilton (Carlin-Chevrolet), Sato and Askew were still running off strategy. Newgarden and Palou passed fuel-saving Harvey for fourth and fifth, while behind them Herta and Power ran 4sec apart, third and fourth (net) ahead of Dixon, while Grosjean pulled off a brilliant pass around the outside of Rossi at Turn 1 on Lap 47.
Chilton pitted from the lead at the end of Lap 48, and Sato followed him in.
Palou was relentless in his pursuit of Newgarden, running eight-tenths behind the Penske driver, 5sec ahead of Herta, who in turn was 5sec ahead of Power. It became a genuine battle for the lead on Lap 51 when Askew pitted on Lap 52. It was his bad luck that the yellow then flew, Jones spinning the already limping DCR-Vasser Sullivan Honda into the Turn 12 as his left-rear wheel failed.
That left a shootout with two laps to go, and Palou zoomed past Newgarden who had his engine popping and banging up the front straight with his engine lapsing into emergency mode and cruelly dropping him down the field.
Palou needed no further invitation, stretching away from Herta to the tune of 1.8sec in just one lap, and Herta was equally comfortable ahead of Power.
Palou won by 1.9sec ahead of Herta who was 1.1sec ahead of Power, who had a similar margin over Dixon, Grosjean. Marcus Ericsson made it three Ganassi cars in the top six.
Just like last year, the #10 Ganassi car pounced in the closing laps, and now Palou has wrested the championship lead away from O’Ward who fell behind Sato on the final lap.
A great second win in the series for Palou!