INDIANAPOLIS — The Indianapolis Motor Speedway last year was the place that would eventually lead Alex Palou to the ride that he’s in today. Palou, was so good on the IMS oval as a rookie that it drew attention to Chip Ganassi Racing. They felt like if an opportunity arose, Palou could be their guy.
Well, a month later, Palou was fearing his INDYCAR future could be limited. He had nothing lined up and no money to really bring to the table. Then, Felix Rosenqvist decided to leave Ganassi at seasons end to join Arrow McLaren SP.
Ganassi still had Palou on his radar and moved quickly. They’d sign him for the No. 10 Honda to replace the departing Rosenqvist.
Now, we’re back at Indy and Palou is showing why that move was a smart one by CGR. He would finish on the podium in third for his third top four in five races run this year. He’s now had three career podiums in 19 tries, two of which coming this season for Ganassi.
The third place run cuts his deficit to his teammate and points leader Scott Dixon in half from 26 to 13 as they sit 1-2 going into the 105th Running of the Indianapolis 500. The 24 year old is showing that he’s the real deal. He just needed this opportunity.
He’d win the season opener in Barber and hasn’t blinked since.
“Yeah, I mean, it’s super early still, and you can see that one race can change the standings a lot,” Palou said on the start of his season. “Winning a race means a lot here in INDYCAR. But yeah, we did a good start so far. We are one-two in the championship. That means Chip Ganassi and all the crew, they did an amazing job during the preseason and during the races. We didn’t start like super smooth if you think about like we had some issues at St. Pete, we didn’t have super clean races at Texas, but we’re still here, we’re still fighting, and that’s a good thing.
“Yeah, hopefully we can keep it going the month of May. I think it’s going to be awesome. I had a good month of May until I crashed last year. I’m not going to do that again. I love the place. I love the race. I know that with experience I have this year, running the race last year and also Texas, the two races, yeah, I’m feeling super confident, and now especially coming out of a podium, I’m going to be pretty excited.”
This weekend, he had a radiator problem in opening practice and as a result of that, didn’t even get to turn a single lap. He had 45 minutes of practice later in the day, then had to qualify. He’d end up in the Fast Six and manage a fourth place starting spot.
In the race, they had to go with Reds at the start but the primary tire for the rest of the way. For some reason, his car didn’t react well and was slower on the alternate tire compound. It was the opposite for everyone else.
“It’s tough to say,” Palou said on if they could figure out the red tires if they could have been more of a threat in the end. “Now that we’re done, I would say, yeah, 100 percent we should have gone on the reds, but yesterday when we did the Fast Six we were lacking a lot of pace on the used reds, so that’s why we said, man, these tires for us, they don’t really work. I think we were like five or six stints from Romain, so we said, if we play the same game.
“They were super fast — but yeah, to be honest, they run quicker than me on the sticker reds, so if we played the same game as them tomorrow, like today on the race, we know that we are not going to go faster. So we tried different stuff. We didn’t lose, we just lost some track time, which was fine, but it was too exciting with Newgarden coming with the with you reds and lap cars and I was with the blacks and I was like, oh, my God, no, but it worked out at the end.”
Still, there Palou was in the end with a podium and showing Ganassi and the open wheel world that he’s a legitimate player for this championship.