Alex Palou a fighting P2 after nursing damaged front wing: “I could feel it dragging”

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On what was quite a remarkable weekend full of twists and turns, IndyCar championship leader Alex Palou managed to extend his points lead despite carrying front wing damage for the final 40 laps of Sunday’s race in Toronto.

Photo credit: Penske Entertainment | Travis Hinkle

The Spaniard had a steady start to the race as he started P15 following a bad qualifying. He was forced to sit behind Romain Grosjean for around 20 laps before making a delicious pass into turn 5 on lap 30.

With other cars having pitted earlier, that moved him into P6. 3 laps later, he nailed Herta for 5th.

“We moved pretty good on the first end. We had a lot of pace. Saved some fuel and some tyres. We could catch the guys up front. I think we were right behind Dixon, and that was a good stint.”

Then the drama started to happen for Palou. On the lap 46 restart following a crash for Romain Grosjean and making the bold decision to try and go to the end on fuel after pitting during that caution period, Kyle Kirkwood spun Helio Castroneves right in front of the 26-year-old.

Trying to avoid hitting the Brazilian, Palou gently touched the wall and damaged his front wing. He carried it for the final 40 laps.

The Spaniard explained that period of the race and what went on from his point of view in regards to strategy and the incident.

“Then we had the opportunity to pit. On the yellow we thought all of the people were going to do it, and it was risky, but we made it happen. Even with that contact with Helio there, didn’t really have much room to go.

“Yeah, we made it work. I’m just glad that the front nose was still on the car in the end because I could feel it dragging.

“It’s one of those tracks that there’s no way you can do anything about it. It’s so bumpy, and you have to take some curves. I was trying to avoid some curves, but I would just get a bit of pressure from Colton.

“Yeah, it was a tough day, but a really good one.”

Expanding on the collision with Kirkwood and Castroneves, Palou talked through what occurred from his cockpit at that sketchy moment.

The runaway leader did lose out to Herta, but he immediately reclaimed the spot on the lap 52 restart.

“Yeah, I was behind the 27 [Kirkwood]. I know he was the leader on my strategy — on our strategy, let’s say.

“I went on the inside because they didn’t go when it was green. Everybody started going, and I didn’t want to get overtaken.

“I went on the inside. He tried to be on the outside, and I think I got checked up, braked, and the 27 spun around the 60, or the 06 [Castroneves].

“Then I just tried to avoid the car, but he hit me, and I hit the wall. I don’t know how, but the engine was still running, and we were able to drive off only losing a couple of spots.”

As the final stint went on, the front wing of Palou’s looked more and more likely to fall off at some point as it got even looser.

He referenced three corners as to where it felt at its worst with the damage sustained.

“Yeah, so I could feel it dragging on turn two, that it was flat out, and you are turning right. I could feel it dragging. I was, like, Oh, man, that’s not good.

“Then also on the curve in turn five and in turn eight, but I didn’t think it was that bad. I could feel that it was increasing. And I was, like, ‘Oh, man’.

“Barry [Wanser] told me, Ten laps to go, and I thought, honestly, that it was not going to — we were not going to end the race with that nose.

“Yeah, I was pretty surprised. I think it was only the vinyl, like, the stickers that were holding it because there’s nothing else there. So, yeah, pretty impressive.”

Such was the extent of the broken front wing on the #10, Palou struggled under braking and at turn 10.

“Well, the right side started disappearing, and the left side started coming up, and I was, like, Oh, man, that’s not good.

“Yeah, it was really bad, honestly, and it was tough to drive because I didn’t really have the same grip to the right and to the left.

“Obviously it’s one of the most bumpiest tracks that we have on braking zones, on curves, and then turn ten it was the worst where I couldn’t do anything. I was just trying to go around, but I was losing quite a lot of grip compared to the following guy.

“As I said, glad that we made it with the front wing.”

In the closing stages, Palou was gamely hanging on to 2nd. That’s where he would finish to extend his championship lead to a whopping 117 points over teammate Scott Dixon.

However, he feared the worse towards the end as Herta, Power and Ericsson were right behind him as he had concerns about the wing, fuel and tyres.

But he ultimately fended off an attack from the Andretti star and the other two had to pit at the end of the penultimate lap for fuel as they would have run out.

“Yeah. At one point I thought we were going to finish behind Marcus. I saw it on the mirrors that it was Colton, Power, and Marcus; and I said, ‘Oh, man, I’m not going to be able to make it’.

“But I was concerned about fuel, which was the biggest problem for our strategy. I was concerned on tyres because with the front wing I just couldn’t turn left. I was concerned by the wing. So I was a bit concerned about everything, to be honest.”

Photo credit: Penske Entertainment | Travis Hinkle