Indianapolis 500 starts after 4-hour storm delay

Indianapolis, Ind. –

The Indianapolis 500 started Sunday after a rain delay of four hours with NASCAR star Kyle Larson still at the track and in the race.

Larson is trying to run “The Double” and compete in both the Indy 500 and the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway. But the weather in Indianapolis on Sunday put a year’s worth of planning in jeopardy when a strong band of thunderstorms swept through Indianapolis Motor Speedway ahead of pre-race festivities.

IMS officials forced the evacuation of about 125,000 fans who had already arrived for “The Greatest Spectacle in Racing.”

When the storm cleared and after two hours of drying the 2.5-mile oval, track officials expected the race to complete all 200 laps before dusk. There is an 8:15 p.m. curfew to complete the race.

“Our plan all along has been to get the Indianapolis 500 in today and I believe we are on track to do that,” track president Doug Boles said.

Larson will race as long as his car is running and then make the trip to North Carolina to enter NASCAR’s longest race of the year. Justin Allgaier was on standby there and planned to drive the No. 5 car for Hendrick Motorsports in his place.

“I think our plan is to keep this as a priority,” said Larson, who qualified fifth for his Indy 500 debut in a joint effort between Arrow McLaren and Hendrick Motorsports.

Heavy storms had been expected all week, and they arrived about 12:45 p.m., just when the green flag was supposed to drop. Along with heavy rain, the band brought wind gusts up to 45 m.p.h. and dangerous lightning, and video boards inside the race track advised fans who had already made their way into the speedway to seek shelter.

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Boles said that pre-race festivities, such as the military salutes in honor of Memorial Day and the traditional performance of “Back Home Again in Indiana,” would take place. He also said the television blackout that prevents the race from airing live in the Indianapolis area would be lifted so that fans who needed to leave early could watch from home.

The defending winner of the Indy 500 is Josef Newgarden, whose Team Penske teammates Will Power and pole sitter Scott McLaughlin join him on the front row. McLaughlin broke the four-lap qualifying record with an average of 234.220 m.p.h.

Newgarden has been trying to rebuild his reputation in the paddock after IndyCar discovered illegal push-to-pass software on the three Team Penske cars and threw out both Newgarden’s win and McLaughlin’s third-place finish in the season opener. President Tim Cindric, Newgarden’s strategist, is one of several team employees suspended for the race.

Only five drivers in 107 runnings have won “The Greatest Spectacle in Racing” in consecutive years.

Chevrolet clearly had the speed advantage in qualifying when the engine maker claimed the first eight spots in on the grid. But Honda showed it can hold its own in race trim, which means there was no obvious favorite when the green flag drops.

As rain fell at the speedway, most of the drivers retreated to their garages or motorhomes. Power was hunkered down in his garage in Gasoline Alley alongside buddy Flavor Fav, who rode with him in the 500 Festival parade on Saturday.

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