Palou dodges obstacles to extend points lead with win at Road America: “Great day for us”

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Photo credit: Chip Ganassi Racing

Adversity reared its head for Alex Palou at Road America this weekend, but the IndyCar points leader pushed forward and took his third win in four races to extend his points lead.

The Chip Ganassi Racing driver’s difficulties started almost immediately as he hit the wall at turn 4 during second practice on Saturday morning.

“We didn’t test here last week, so we knew that we had a lot of work to do with the new pavement. We started with a lot of speed on practice one. Practice two I did a huge mistake. I had a lot of speed again, but crashed it very hard.

Despite the wreck, the team got everything back together for qualifying, and Palou put the car on the second row for the race. The Spanish driver sat in the top 3 or 4 throughout the first part of the race.

“It was great to start up there saving a bit of fuel at the beginning. I think everybody was on the same situation. Then everything started moving a lot with those cautions.

One was nearly caused by Palou and Josef Newgarden, who came together on lap 23. The championship leader had gone wide at turn 5 and Newgarden got a run towards turn 6 up the inside, but he moved back across towards the racing line without realising he didn’t give enough space to his rival.

“It was my mistake. I was saving fuel. I braked just a little bit the apex. Offline was a bit more slippery. Just got over on the exit curb, got a big […] oversteer, lost a position there. Completely my fault.

“Then, yeah, we touched. Obviously he didn’t gave me enough room, but he already apologised. Honestly I knew he was not doing it on purpose. It was just he thought that there was enough room.”

Both cars continued, and Palou did work back up to regain the position. While all this was going on back in the field, the one constant was Colton Herta at the front of the field, leading 33 of 55 laps, until he took his last stop a lap earlier than the cars around him and was force to save a lot of fuel.

This allowed Palou to put the squeeze on the young American and he eventually swept around the outside at turn 1 with 7 to go.

“The first couple of laps that he did on the blacks, he was really, really fast. I was like, ‘man, he’s pushing very hard. I don’t know if I can catch him.’ Once my tyres were into temperature, I was able to catch him.

“I saw that he was struggling a little bit more. He had to save more fuel than us because he pitted one lap early. We were just a little bit better on tyre deg, as well. I was just trying to push him to use the push to pass, then overtake him. It worked.

“Yeah, great day for us.”

His race was almost derailed on the final lap as he just missed hitting slowing CGR teammate Marcus Armstrong. The Kiwi had run off the road at the Carousel and just managed to get out of the way at The Kink.

“Honestly they couldn’t tell me because from turn eight until Canada Corner [radio communication] it’s very hard, so we decide not to talk on those corners to avoid misunderstandings. They couldn’t really tell me. Suddenly I saw a car. I didn’t know it was Marcus. Honestly, having a good five-second gap allowed me to just take it easy there and overtake him.”

With the win, Palou now has over a race in hand, leading teammate Marcus Ericsson by 74 points and heading to Mid-Ohio, where he’s podiumed in his last two races and looks good to continue his hot streak.