INDIANAPOLIS -- For seemingly the first time all month, Sunday was a beautiful day at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Gone was the rain that plagued much of this May as well as last year's race day.
But as the green flag waved at 1:11 p.m., one question remained -- would it be a beautiful race?
The day certainly turned out beautifully for Scott Dixon. The New Zealander led 115 of 200 laps and ran away with the win over the last 25 laps. Vitor Meira finished second, while Marco Andretti followed in third.
Three different incidents even happened during caution periods.
But there was no such trouble for Dixon, if for no other reason than he spent most of his day in front of everyone.
"What a day, man. I just couldn't believe it," Dixon said. "You just thought something was going to go wrong."
After running at the front most of the first half of the race, he fell back during much of the second half only to reemerge with the lead on lap 172. There was no catching him after that.
"I was trying to save fuel, and I was trying to see how the car was in traffic," Dixon said of his time out of the lead. "But coming toward the end, as long as we got a good jump on those guys, I don't think anyone was going to get past us."
Through the first half of the race, Dixon and Target Chip Ganassi Racing teammate Dan Wheldon looked like they would dominate the entire race. The pole sitter, Dixon led until lap three, when Wheldon passed him.
The duo traded the lead several times throughout the first half of the race leading the first 93 laps, save 10 led by Bruno Junqueira and 2004 winner Buddy Rice leading after an early caution.
Tony Kanaan provided the biggest challenge for the Ganassi team in the early going. The Andretti Green driver even passed Dixon for the lead on lap 94.
However, Kanaan's usual bad luck at Indianapolis struck again on lap 107, though. Both Dixon and Andretti passed Kanaan, with Andretti and Kanaan making contact. The Brazilian lost control of his car in turn three, hitting the wall in the north short chute. Sarah Fisher was also collected in the incident.
Kanaan was none too happy with teammate Andretti.
"It was a stupid move by Marco," Kanaan said. "I think teammates shouldn't do that to teammates. I'm sure he will have a good explanation for what he did. Halfway through the race with a bunch of traffic, why are you going to dive into me like that?"
As for her incident with Kanaan, Fisher, who was two laps down at the time, said it was "just racing."
"Tony was racing real hard for the lead, and got high and just spun out right there in front of me," Fisher said.
Kanaan ended up 29th, while Fisher placed 30th.
After the caution, another strong challenger emerged in Andretti. The 21-year-old came out of the pits second and passed Dixon for the lead five laps later on lap 122.
However, a late adjustment to the rear wing left Andretti unable to catch Dixon or Meira after the final caution.
The other major incident of the day involving contenders was an accident on pit lane between Danica Patrick and Ryan Briscoe on lap 171. Briscoe tried to get in front of Patrick exiting his pit, but Patrick would not give him the position. The two collided and both ended up out of contention.
While most observers agreed that Briscoe looked to be at fault in the accident, neither driver saw the other's side afterward.
"I was going down pit lane and as people pull out of their boxes if you are in the outside lane, then they have to wait to blend in," an unhappy Patrick said. "From what I know, it looked pretty obvious what happened. What are you going to do?"
"I just saw the replay and it confirmed my thoughts," Briscoe said. "We were both out there trying to win the Indy 500 today, and when it's time to go, we have to go. But from what I can see, there was still plenty of room for her to get around. There are people pointing fingers, but that's not the way we are."
Patrick finished 22nd to Briscoe's 23rd.
Having run steadily all day, Meira came to the lead at lap 160. The highest qualifier outside of the three major teams (Ganassi, Andretti Green and Penske), Meira was perhaps the underdog story of the month.
In the end, though, he and his Delphi Panther Racing Honda were also not enough for Dixon, who reclaimed the lead on lap 172.
Asked how he led and contended when "no one" expected him to do so, Meira said there were a few believers.
"Nobody but me and the Delphi National Guard Crew (expected to lead). We really, really prepared the car, and everything was according to plan," Meira said. "But things didn't really happen our way.
"We finished second, but you know what, this is very good compared to the struggle we had last year and at the beginning of the season," he continued.
It was Dixon's day in the end, though. In spite of the numerous cautions and lack of rhythm the entire day, Dixon was able to start in front and stay there most of the day.
"What a day. We seemed to have a good car," the 27-year-old winner said. "We just had to hold onto it and stay ahead of those guys on restarts. You're a sitting duck. There were so many yellows. It was hard to get a rhythm."
At 143.567 mph, Dixon's average speed was the slowest by winner since Rice's rain-shortened win four years ago.
Two-time winner Helio Castroneves and Ed Carpenter rounded out the top five. At sixth, Ryan Hunter-Reay was the highest finisher among the 11 rookies in the field.
Among other former winners, Rice was eighth and 2005 winner Wheldon was 12th. 1996 champion Buddy Rice was 17th.
At Indianapolis Motor Speedway
Lap length: 2.5 miles
1. (1) Scott Dixon, 200 laps, 143.567 mph
2. (8) Vitor Meira, 200.
3. (7) Marco Andretti, 200.
4. (4) Helio Castroneves, 200.
5. (10) Ed Carpenter, 200.
6. (20) Ryan Hunter-Reay, 200.
7. (9) Hideki Mutoh, 200.
8. (17) Buddy Rice, 200.
9. (14) Darren Manning, 200.
10. (12) Townsend Bell, 200.
11. (25) Oriol Servia, 200.
12. (2) Dan Wheldon, 200.
13. (23) Will Power, 200.
14. (18) Davey Hamilton, 200.
15. (29) Enrique Bernoldi, 200.
16. (21) John Andretti, 199.
17. (32) Buddy Lazier, 195.
18. (28) Mario Moraes, 194.
19. (27) Milka Duno, 185.
20. (15) Bruno Junqueira, 184.
21. (31) A.J. Foyt IV, 180.
22. (5) Danica Patrick, 171, accident
23. (3) Ryan Briscoe, 171, accident
24. (11) Tomas Scheckter, 156, mechanical
25. (19) Alex Lloyd, 151, accident
26. (26) E.J. Viso, 139, mechanical
27. (16) Justin Wilson, 132, accident
28. (24) Jeff Simmons, 112, accident
29. (6) Tony Kanaan, 105, accident
30. (22) Sarah Fisher, 103, accident
31. (30) Jaime Camara, 79, accident
32. (33) Marty Roth, 59, accident
33. (13) Graham Rahal, 36, accident
Winner's average speed: 143.567 mph.
Time of Race: 3 hours, 28 minutes, 57.679 seconds.
Margin of Victory: 1.750 seconds.
Caution Flags: 8 for 69 laps.
Lead Changes: 18 among 9 drivers.
Lap Leaders: Dixon 1-2, Wheldon 3-9, Junqueira 10-11, Rice 12-19, Wheldon 20-35, Dixon 36-74, Wheldon 75-79, Dixon 80-91, Wheldon 92-93, Kanaan 94-105, Dixon 105-121, Ma.Andretti 122-135, Moraes 136-138, Ma.Andretti 139, Dixon 140-155, Carpenter 156-158, Dixon 159, Meira 160-171, Dixon 172-200.
Point Standings (After 5 of 18 races): 1,Dixon 191; 2,Castroneves 176; 3,Wheldon 153; 4,Kanaan 139; 5.M.Andretti 130; 6,Patrick 122; 7,Carpenter 120; 8,Power 114; 9,Mutoh 113; 10,Servia 112; 11,Hunter-Reay 105; 12,Bernoldi 99; 13,Meira 98, Rahal 98; 15,Viso 93; 16,Foyt 92, Manning 92.