Palou “happy” with pole, adds Detroit track is “too tight” and “too short” for IndyCar

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Photo credit: Penske Entertainment | Joe Skibinski

Álex Palou scored his second consecutive IndyCar pole position on the streets of Detroit on a day that saw a lot of chaos in both IndyCar free practice and the Indy NXT race. His pole lap in the Firestone Fast 6 was 3 tenths quicker than the closest contender, Team Penske’s Scott McLaughlin.

“Yeah, that was a good lap. We had a lot of speed since practice one. The track evolved a lot, but it seemed like our car kept on evolving, even during qualifying. I just had lots of confidence to go out there.

“I thought it was going to be a bit tighter in Fast Six. So, yeah, pretty happy that we were able to get that first pole position on a street course.”

The track in downtown Detroit is a new venue, very different from the previous track on Belle Isle. With the track being fairly short and very bumpy, the Catalan was quite clear about how important his up-front start is.

“Oh, yeah. Very. I don’t know, I was watching INDY NXT. The guy starting on pole ended up on the fence on the braking zone.

“Honestly I agree with all the drivers, or most of the drivers. It’s too tight for INDYCARs. It’s too short for INDYCARs. There’s too much traffic. It’s too bumpy,” Palou added.

“But, yeah, I think I’m the happiest driver at the moment starting on pole, so I cannot complain too much. It’s going to be really important, but at the same time it’s a hundred laps. It’s going to be a long day, similar to IMS. So we’ll see.”

The Indy NXT race saw some chaos from start to end, but the Ganassi driver didn’t think there were many things he could learn from that race.

“Not much [I take away from the INDY NXT], apart of the start. It was tough to pass. It was a good move for P1 that the guy that was leading got a bit unlucky.”

He continued: “Yeah, I mean, I think it’s going to be a bit better for us just because we have two tire compounds. We have pit stops. We have more tyre deg and a lot more laps. Hopefully our race is a bit more action on track. That’s it.

“We’ll have to see how the tyres hold on or not. We saw something during practice, but as we keep on having traffic, we don’t have like continuous 10 laps. We’ll see tomorrow on the warmup if we can get some tire deg sense and see how the race going to be.”

The points leader followed up by addressing the traffic and how difficult it was to get a clean lap in during practice.

“I think if we’re doing 62 seconds and it’s 27 cars, it’s like 2.4 seconds for each car, which everybody wants a five-second gap. Then you end up having traffic every lap like we saw in practice two.

“I don’t know what the perfect distance is, but I would say adding 30 seconds to a track or 20 seconds would help a lot. We have a lot of cars. It’s crazy. It’s good, it’s really good for the series, for the racing. But when it comes to practice, we have 10 red flags, 25 yellows, traffic all the time.

“Yeah, just enough that we could have normal gaps, then we could practice properly.”

Coming to the race tomorrow, Palou explained he’d rather have track position than the fastest strategy, which could easily bite you in the rear if things become chaotic.

“It’s going to be tough. But I think the idea is to try to stay up front instead find trying to do the best. The fastest strategy is to be up front. Maybe there’s a faster strategy to be 10 laps before, try to run fast.

“If you drop to 10th, there’s a caution, you stay there, you’re going to stay there. That happened to us the first year in Nashville. At the same time we don’t know what the tyre deg is, so…

“It’s an unknown for everybody, but at least we start there, and we have a bit more margin to try and decide on time. But, yeah, it’s fun honestly. It’s fun because nobody knows. The engineers have to think about all the different outcomes and different strategies. We don’t know if there’s going to be 20 laps of yellow, or maybe there’s none like Detroit last year.”