Ryan Hunter-Reay is halfway to his second career win at the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach, as he’s kept control of the proceedings after starting from the pole position.
The first standing start of the 2014 Verizon IndyCar Series season had Hunter-Reay and Andretti Autosport teammate James Hinchcliffe on the front row.
But when the lights went out, Hinchcliffe got off slowly while Sebastien Bourdais charged past him to pick up second behind Hunter-Reay. Simon Pagenaud and Marco Andretti also leaped past Hinchcliffe on the opening lap.
But while Andretti faded back with apparent front wing damage, Hinchcliffe was able to make up some ground and got back to third at Lap 9 of 80.
Several drivers, including Graham Rahal and Tony Kanaan, opted to pit early in a bid to make a three-stop strategy work but the race stayed clean until Lap 27.
Just after he had made his first pit stop of the day, Bourdais appeared to lock up his brakes and went into the tires at Turn 8 while under heavy pressure from Hinchcliffe in third place.
On Lap 32, the race restarted but not cleanly as Graham Rahal got into the back of Justin Wilson at the Turn 11 hairpin and turned the Englishman around.
Rahal was given a drive-through penalty for avoidable contact, but Will Power did not suffer the same fate when he got into Pagenaud in a battle for position at Turn 6.
Pagenaud got the worse of the exchange as he went into the tires there and left with a banner wrapped around his left-front suspension and damaged front wing.
Meanwhile, the day got even worse for Bourdais as he was given his own drive-through penalty for pitting in a closed pit lane at Lap 35.
A short time later, he found trouble again when he slid into the tires at Turn 9 to bring out the caution flag just at halfway. Charlie Kimball’s Chevrolet engine then blew up, forcing the safety crew to push him behind the wall.
When the green came back out at Lap 46, Hunter-Reay was leading Hinchcliffe, Josef Newgarden, Will Power and Helio Castroneves.