The race started under mostly clear skies, with muggy 91-degree temperatures — the second hottest 500 weather in history. Carpenter led the first 150 miles, with Team Penske’s Power and his three teammates in close pursuit. They were all powered by Chevrolet engines, while the fastest Honda was Bourdais in fifth.
Patrick, in another Chevrolet, was running laps five or more m.p.h. slower than the leaders, and she gradually fell back to 12th, then 17th before her crash on lap 68. She was scored 30th, her worst result in eight races here since 2005. She had finished as high as third in 2009, and made history by leading laps in the storied event.
Patrick, who had announced before this race that it would be her last, said, “I’ve had some great moments here, and I won’t ever forget it, and I won’t forget the fans, that’s for sure.”
Despite a strong qualifying effort, it was clear from the start that Patrick’s car wasn’t optimally tuned for the muggy weather conditions. Her teammate Carpenter’s setup was much better, which contributed to his early lead.
Power, who led the event several times, and was generally among the top three, was by no means assured of the victory as the final laps played out. Servia and Wilson, both dark horse contenders, had hoped to stretch their mileage to make it to the end, but ended up having to make late pit stops as a result of Power pouring it on and forcing them to burn what fuel they had left in a vain attempt to stay in front of him.
“I was thinking, ‘I just have to get these guys; I don’t know how much fuel they have left,’” said Power, who was fourth when the race went back to full speed racing, following the cleanup of Kanaan’s crash. “But this is the restart of my life.”