Palou on a “great day” in Detroit, admits he was in “panic mode” when gearbox gremlins hit

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Alex Palou extended his championship lead by winning yesterday on the streets of Detroit. The Chip Ganassi driver, who had put his car on pole on Saturday, survived the final, chaotic laps at the new track to take his second win of 2023.

The IMS GP winner last Month summed up his strong performance in the post-race press conference attended by Pit Debrief, highlighting the importance a full push first stint had in securing the gap on runner up Will Power:

“It was a busy race honestly. We had a really fast car. Yeah, we were really good on the first stint. I think we did the right strategy of just pushing. We knew the tyre deg was going to be high. I think it was going to be high anyway if we were managing or not.

“I think we got a gap that gave us the opportunity to fight with Will. He did a tremendous job. At the end it was too busy for me. I wanted to be more calm end of the race. Honestly it was a great day for us, for the No. 10 Ridgeline car. Couldn’t be prouder of the work we did.”

“My first win on a street circuit,” he remarked, now only an oval race win away from having won at every type of race featured on the IndyCar calendar in 2023.

Pole sitter both in Detroit and for the Indy 500, Palou’s form has been rather impressive since the beginning of the month of May, in spite of the doubts on the new track replacing the Belle Isle circuit he had expressed yesterday:

“I mean, I was on a positive note giving comments. Honestly, it was tight. We saw that.It was a really fun race. It was a lot better than I expected. We had a lot more grip today than what we did. I think the track evolve a lot during the weekend.”

The 2021 Indycar champion did call for some modifications to the new track layout, and returned on its tightness, but admitted he also found many strengths in the new event:

“I will watch the race obviously because I had a clean race, let’s say. But honestly Detroit did a tremendous job. The fans were amazing. I was mind blowed of how many fans we had today being a first-time event. Also the podium on Victory Lane was really fun.

“Yeah, hopefully we can tweak some stuff and make it even better for next year. But, yeah, cannot wait,” he concluded.

Photo credits: Penske Entertainment | James Black

Reigning champion Will Power ended the race in P2 after leading 14 out of the 100 laps completed during the race. Palou had many words of praise for the Team Penske driver, who achieved his second podium of the season: “He was really fast. He did a really good job on getting through the field on the first stint, then also when he overtook me.

“I had the gearbox issue that we solve it really, really quickly. But, yeah, he was tough to beat. Yeah, I mean, he’s done a really good job obviously. He has a great team around, as well. He was a headache on the last two, three restarts where he was getting super close, and he was very aggressive. Obviously, like he had to be. But, yeah, it’s always good racing with him.”

Asked to expand on the extent of the stall issue that afflicted him mid-race, the Chip Ganassi driver admitted that it was key in Power taking the provisional lead as he was stuck with a lengthy procedure to get the No. 10 car working as normal:

“It was because I was trying – I think, I haven’t spoken to the team yet – but I was trying to warm up the rear tyees obviously. I up-shifted onto second when we were wheel spinning. It got stuck in first. I got stuck. I couldn’t really shift.

“Before they told me, because I was already heading to turn two, I switched to emergency mode because that’s the only way to take all the issues out, let’s say. It went well, but you lose a lot of performance up-shifting.

“That’s why Will got us, until exit of turn three I got it back to normal, then it was all right. It was not something from Honda or the team. It was a driver issue that we had, yeah.”

The malfunction had him worried for the rest of his run to the win, and especially for the multiple restarts which happened towards the end of the race, as Palou was unsure whether his gear would get stuck again just like it had happened earlier in the race:

“Well, that was really a panic mode because I didn’t really know what to do. I didn’t know if it was going to work or not because if you get stuck in one gear, you’re done. That was a pretty busy moment,” he admitted.