INDIANAPOLIS — Scott Dixon‘s perfect Indianapolis 500 fell apart when the six-time IndyCar Series champion ran out of gas before his first pit stop Sunday.
The pole sitter was on track for a regularly scheduled stop when Stefan Wilson crashed as he entered pit road to bring out a caution 33 laps into the race. The caution closed pit road for service and delayed Dixon’s plan to stop for service.
As his Chip Ganassi Racing fuel cell eventually ran dry, Dixon coasted down pit lane for a splash of fuel. Then the Honda wouldn’t restart and Dixon fell a lap off the pace.
He plummeted to 31st in the running order as Dixon, who was among the fastest and most consistent drivers in the buildup to the race, pursues his second Indy 500 title. He won the race in 2008 and has finished second three times, including last year.
Alexander Rossi, the 2016 race winner, had his own issues on the pit sequence and dropped to 32nd. He pulled alongside Dixon under caution and motioned to his rival as the two apparently tried to agree upon a strategy to work together through the traffic.
Wilson, in his first Indy 500 since 2018, was the first driver out of the race.
The Indy 500 is being held in front of 135,000 spectators, about 40% of grandstand seating capacity, making it the largest sporting event in the world since the start of the pandemic. The delayed race last August was held without spectators for the first time.
Roger Penske, who purchased Indianapolis Motor Speedway in January 2020, nervously paced a walkway above the speedway 30 minutes before he gave the command to start engines. But the 84-year-old has been thrilled to be part of reopening America.
More than 90,000 people have been vaccinated at the speedway since March, and admittance into the Gasoline Alley and the paddock was granted only to fully vaccinated competitors and guests.
“We’re ready to go,” said Penske, whose plans for the speedway were hit hard by the pandemic roughly eight weeks after he closed the sale. “The 135 [thousand] that are here, we have another 60,000 that are ready to come next year. So that just shows you the strength this place has. It’s something I had never realized at all, the commitment that people want to have here.”