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INDIANAPOLIS – The Indianapolis 500 might not have been won in pit lane. It certainly was lost there.
One by one, contenders headed to the pits for fuel, tires or both on Sunday and watched their shot at winning the 100th running of the race fade or disappear altogether.
Rookie Alexander Rossi won the race by actually staying out on the track and taking the checkered flag moments before he ran out of gas.
Rather than gambling they could finish the last 36 laps without a stop as Rossi did, Colombia's Carlos Munoz and American Josef Newgarden played it safe by pitting with four and five laps left, respectively. They wound up finishing second and third.
It was a rugged day for almost everyone else.
Andretti Autosport teammates Townsend Bell and Ryan Hunter-Reay were knocked out of contention in pit lane. They had more than half of the first 120 laps and thought they might be battling for the win — until Helio Castroneves moved to the outside as Bell and Hunter-Reay started to pull away at almost the same time.
Bell wound up cutting off Hunter-Reay as he tapped the inside wall on pit road. Both cars were pushed back into their pit stalls and repaired, but neither led another lap. Bell finished 21st while Hunter-Reay, the 2014 race winner, was 24th.
Castroneves ran into his own problem after one of his rear wheel guards started flapping around. When he pitted, his crew struggled to get the original part off, and the long pit stop — 39.7 seconds — prevented the Brazilian from having any chance of a fourth 500 win. Instead, he finished 11th. His crew had won the pit crew challenge this weekend, too.
Roger Penske's drivers had their own pit lane nightmares. Will Power went to the back of the field after touching wheels with Tony Kanaan while points leader Simon Pagenaud was assessed the same penalty after tapping Mikhail Aleshin.