Alex Palou: “15 to 20 drivers” capable of winning Sunday’s Indy 500 on pure speed

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The month of May has been almost perfect for Spain’s Alex Palou. The Chip Ganassi star took a commanding win from P3 on the grid on the Indy road course, and he will start on pole position for the Indy 500 this upcoming Sunday.

He’ll also head into the 200-lap race as the championship leader by 6 points from Arrow McLaren’s Pato O’Ward.

Palou will have four Chevrolet-powered cars right behind him when the green flag is waved, with his teammate Scott Dixon the next Honda runner in P6.

Photo credit: Penske Entertainment | Chris Owens

However, he feels no need to be concerned due to the strength and pace that CGR has shown throughout practice and qualifying in both clear air and traffic.

“I mean they’ve been really strong but honestly we’ve been stronger so I’m not really worried about that.

“Scott [Dixon] is right [there] in P6 so hopefully he can be up front in the first five to ten laps and we can have another teammate up there helping us.

“Honestly, with the speed that we’ve showed in traffic running as well, I think we’ll be able to battle with anybody, and it’s only going to be about surviving the first part of the race until we get to the last stop.”

The 26-year-old was then asked about the speed of the Arrow McLarens on the Indianapolis superspeedway, but he believes as many as 15 to 20 drivers can win on Sunday on pure speed.

“Honestly, I think there’s a lot of cars and teams and drivers that can… I mean this race everybody can win it, the 33 drivers that have cars that are in it, everybody can win.

“But if you put like a list of fast drivers and fast cars that on a normal race could win the race by speed, there’s 15 to 20 cars and drivers that could do that.

“McLaren has been really fast. I would say Rinus [VeeKay] has been excellent in qualifying and in the race. It’s not [just] this year he’s been like that. It’s every single year that he’s been at the Indy 500.

“AJ Foyt cars as well, they’ve been really fast. Also my teammates, unfortunately, they are super strong here, and I know they will have a fast car as well.”

Upsets at the Indy 500 are not uncommon, and Palou references Castroneves’ stunning victory two years ago as one.

“It’s tough to mention one, I prefer to focus on everybody, don’t underestimate anybody.

“I don’t think that people thought that Helio had a strong car in 2021 — and he actually didn’t have the strongest car — but he still won the race.

“Yeah, you can never take anybody out of the list here.”

Towards the top of that long list of drivers who is a threat to Palou is Rinus VeeKay. The Dutch driver has a remarkable record in qualifying for the 500. He has never qualified outside the top 4 for the Greatest Spectacle in Racing.

The Spaniard also admitted VeeKay has “something else” in terms of extra performance on the famous oval.

“Pretty high [on the list], obviously. I mean, he’s been, as I said, he’s not been a threat [just] this year. He’s been a threat every single edition of the Indy 500.

“He has, if I’m not wrong, three front row starts in a row out of four years. You do that one year because you have a fast car, but he has something else as well. He’s a threat.

“When he crashed last year I was leading and he was second, so he was going to be a threat as well in that race. So yeah, I obviously rank him pretty high in that list.”

Palou says he is good friends with the Dutchman and hopes they can work together at the front on Sunday. The Indy 500 is very much a race of trading the lead in the first few stints as fuel saving is required to hit a target lap to pit.

“I’m really good friends with him and hopefully we can play a little bit together to try and help each other [by taking turns out front] and have a good result.

“Hopefully I can come out winning instead of him, you already have some wins with Max [Verstappen] there. I don’t think you need more wins for the Netherlands,” he joked at the end in his response to a Dutch journalist.

Photo credit: Penske Entertainment | John Cote