Can anyone stop Palou from running away with the 2023 IndyCar title?

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The Spaniard stretches his championship lead after de mid-point of the season and is the absolute favourite for the title.

Photo credit: Penske Entertainment | Karl Zemlin

Alex Palou, driver of the No. 10 Chip Ganassi Racing Honda, has had the most impressive run of any driver in the last two seasons. He is currently 74 points ahead of his teammate Marcus Ericsson at the top of the standings in 2023. The Spaniard is the absolute favourite for the title, even with 9 races still to go.

Palou’s championship started slowly. He finished the season opener at St. Pete in 8th place. But with 8 races now run, that is his lowest finish position to date. He went to the podium on the next race in Texas then scored two top-5s in Long Beach and Alabama.

By the time the month of May officially started at the IMS, at the press conferences, Palou was asked about when he was finally going to win and whether he would go to Arrow McLaren at the end of the year. The Spaniard had pressure to deliver.

He did at the Brickyard. He won the GMR GP in dominant fashion. Later in the month, he made history with the fastest-ever pole recorded for the Indy 500. In the race, VeeKay crashed into him in the pitlane, but he was able to recover up to 4th place from outside the top 20, grabbing crucial points for the championship.

He continued his run on the following races at Detroit and Road America. Winning dominantly at the Motor City and showing good pace at the final stint in Elkhart Lake, overtaking on-track race leader Colton Herta and not looking back.

Whilst he was delivering on track, his rivals for the title are inconsistent. Second place Marcus Ericsson has won one race and scored a podium, with a runner-up spot at the 500, but simply hasn’t been finishing high enough in races in spite of top 10 finishes at every single race the year. Josef Newgarden is even more inconsistent. While sometimes Team Penske didn’t show pace or reliability, Newgarden had some great races, especially at the ovals, as it was shown by his win at the Indy 500.

When talking about being inconsistent, Pato O’Ward’s name comes to mind. Besides having great pace in most of the races and four podiums. O’Ward lost two pole positions to his own mistakes, in Long Beach and Road America, and he has had some encounters on track. He found Scott Dixon and later the wall in Long Beach. Marcus Ericsson crossed his path while fighting for the Indy 500 win.

After McLaren’s crew made a mistake on his stop in Detroit, sending him with a loose tyre, he decided to go “all or nothing”. In an attempt to not be lapped by Palou, he hit the wall trying to pass Ferrucci.

Other race winners, Kirkwood and McLaughlin have never really entered the championship fight. Scott Dixon slowly and steadily built a good points tally, with the same 226 points as O’Ward. Alex Rossi, adapting to his new environment at Arrow McLaren is in the same situation. On the other hand, Romain Grosjean has been anything but quiet and he lost momentum since running on the brickyard.

Looking at the championship standings now, just before the mid-point of the season, is almost impossible to say that Palou will lose this championship. Some drivers and journalists have already linked him to be a possible substitute for Checo Perez at Red Bull’s F1 Team. It is an almost absurd scale of events, but he is proving that he has the talent and, crucially, he already has the super license points.

He has been impressively consistent, and that was his strength from the start of his IndyCar career. What is impressive this season is that he is not only being consistently quick, but most of the time he even is consistently the quickest on the field.

Since 2005, when Dan Wheldon dominated the IRL grid, IndyCar saw at least two drivers mathematically with a chance to win the championship at the final race, but this year it seems that the Spaniard can take the Astor Cup early.

The 2021 champion wants to win it again. Now it’s a question of who will step up to try and stop him.

Photo credit: Penske Entertainment | Joe Skibinski