Rahal Letterman Lanigan's Takuma Sato collected his second Indy 500 win in three years on Sunday after beating Ganassi's Scott Dixon in a dramatic finale.
The race was yellow-flagged with just a handful of laps to go after a massive crash by Sato's teammate Spencer Pigot, preventing Dixon who had led the most laps of the day from challenging his rival in a final mad-dash sprint.
Marco Andretti led the field away from pole position but was immediately passed by Dixon who put himself in charge of proceedings at the outset.
The first of many cautions at the Brickyard on Sunday afternoon was sparked by James Davison, while the second was brought about by Marcus Ericsson crashing at Turn 2.
Meantime, Dixon remained the legitimate leader during the pit stop gyrations, often tailgating fellow runners in a skillfull bid to save fuel.
A low-profile performance from Fernando Alonso confined the Spaniard to the lower tier of the field, although he remained on the lead lap thanks to the race's third caution, courtesy of a mishap by Dalton Kellet.
On the restart, Conor Daly spun into the inside wall before the pitlane entry while Oliver Askew, perhaps confused by Daly's tyre smoke, sought to take avoiding action but shot off on a tangent and also violently hit the inside wall, the Arrow McLaren SP driver helped out of the wreck by the marshals to collect his breath and his thoughts.
A massive crash for Oliver Askew in the #Indy500.@IMS added SAFER Barriers designed for safety, and we're so glad they exist as he and Conor Daly are OK. Watch the race on @NBC: https://t.co/B6M3MXYpFe pic.twitter.com/2T6m3Y8ZYL
— NBC Sports (@NBCSports) August 23, 2020
The race went green again at the halfway mark, with Dixon remaining in command. But the Kiwi, in a fuel saving mode, handed the lead to Rossi, with O'Ward and Sato in pursuit. A strategic game of cat and mouse ensued between the two leaders as they swapped positions until the fun was interrupted on lap 121 by a fifth caution sparked by Alex Palou crashing on the exit of Turn 1, the Spaniard climbing out unscathed.
O'Ward gained a position during the field's subsequent pit stop, slotting himself in between Dixon and Rossi. However, the Andretti Autosport charger had been released unsafely by his crew, and was ordered by the stewards to drop to the back of the field, leaving Rossi to play catch up.
Green was declared on lap 131, with the out-of-sync Rosenqvist quickly overtaken up ahead by teammate Dixon who lost no time pulling away.
But Rossi's tribulations continued when the Napa Auto Nation car ran out of road on the exit of Turn 2 and hit the wall, bringing out the sixth caution of the afternoon and sending its driver home empty handed.
The track cleanup lasted the better part of 10 safety car laps as crunch time slowly approached, with Dixon sitting pretty, in speed and strategy when the field got going again on lap 155.
The Ganassi driver led a top five that included Sato, Newgarden, Rahal and Ferrucci. But again, Dixon played the strategy game, letting Sato past to run in the Japanese driver's draft to generate more fuel gains and extend his penultimate stint.
A lowly positioned Marco Andretti initiated the final string of pitstops with 31 laps to go. Dixon's crew was a little slow to get their man back out, but the latter just maintained his edge over Sato and Newgarden.
The Japanese driver put his foot down however and overhauled the Ganassi car as the race entered its final 25 laps with Rahal, Newgarden and Ferrucci also part of the thrilling showdown.
Ganassi strategist Mike Hull gave Dixon the green light to go full rich and the Kiwi then hounded Sato for all his worth with 15 laps remaining on the board.
The pair engaged in a nail-biting battle with Sato responding to his rival's pressure but fast approaching lapped traffic. With 7 laps to go the Rahal Letterman driver struggled in the dirty air but nevertheless succeeded in putting a car between himself and his pursuers.
But drama ensued in the final 5 laps when Spencer Pigot came off the final corner, violently striking the pitlane entry tyre attenuator and ricocheting to the other side. It was a wallop of a hit for the RLL driver who was carried out of his car, seemingly unhurt but considerably shaken.
Unfortunately, the race concluded under the yellow caution, with Sato taking his second Indy 500 win in three years and leaving Dixon a frustrated second after leading 111 laps, with Rahal, Ferrucci and Newgarden rounding off the top five.
"It’s definitely a hard one to swallow for sure," Dixon told NBC. "We had such a great day, I dunno with fuel mileage there, I really can’t see how they were going to make it.
"We pitted a lap later and the numbers we had to get were going to be extremely difficult. I think he even hesitated one of the times on the straight when I pulled out beside him, I think they were trying to figure out whether to save fuel or get to the end.
"I think they just decided to go and run it [flat out]. First time I’ve seen them [the race stewards] let it run out like that, I thought they were definitely going to throw a red flag, which would have been interesting for the last four or five laps."
— Indianapolis Motor Speedway (@IMS) August 23, 2020