Palou gets much needed podium Sunday in Nashville, feels he needs to win both west coast races to win championship

NASHVILLE, Tenn — Sunday’s 3rd place result for Alex Palou had to feel like a race win for him. Yes, he’s still winless this season and entering unchartered territory to become one of the few defending series champions to not win a race in the championship defense year. He’s 0-for-14 in 2022. It’s entering a year since he’s last won as that came at Portland in Sept. 2021.

We go there in 2 races.

Still, for a driver that won 3 races last season en route to a season championship, you’d think that he’d be disappointed to finish 3rd in Sunday’s Big Machine Music City Grand Prix. Not Palou. He needed this in a bad way.

“I think we started the year great,” Palou said. “We did a lot of mistakes, and we had a bit of unlucky time at some races, which cost us a lot of points, but everybody has some unlucky races.”

Some of that was also due to the fact that Palou’s character was being questioned. It’s had to affect him. He told me just last week that it’s hard to keep his mind off of his future. He feels like he’ll be with McLaren in 2023. But that’s up to the courts, not him.

As a result of Gus podium and Scott Dixon’s win, it forced Palou and Chip Ganassi to speak. This was the first extended chat that he’s had with Chip Ganassi since he announced this bizarre move in July.

“We didn’t really have a chat one-to-one since then, but yeah, I mean, it’s good right? We just finished on the podium, it was a good day, it was a good day for the team overall with Scott finishing P1, so it was nice. Like, I have no issues at all.

“We spoke like when we see each other in the trailers and stuff, and it’s not like we avoid each other.”

Asked if he was surprised to speak with his team owner in the Nashville aftermath, Palou said no.

“It’s not like last year he would be happy if I finished top five… Top three, even if Scott hadn’t won the race, I think he would come and congratulate. He’s happy he has a car on the podium.”

A current team suing their current driver is messy. So for that driver to produce a 3rd place run, well that’s special.

You can absolutely tell this was affecting him. Since the calendar turned May, Palou had 1 top 5 finish in the last 9 races run. Now he has 2 in the last 10. Can he mount a serious charge at a championship still?

He’s never thought differently. Palou sits 33 points out with 3 races left. He knows at this point, it’s time to end that drought though and maybe have to turn those podium feelings of wins into just that – wins in general.

“I think maybe four races to go we were, like, this amount of points back to Pato,” said Palou. “We just need to win, to be honest. It’s okay to finish third and fourth and fifth and stuff like that and be okay, but we need to win.”

He says that Gateway isn’t the likely place to end the streak but the west coast final stretch is the best opportunity at doing so though.

“Probably not the next race because, yeah, it’s not my best, but I’ll need to win the last two races to get a chance. We’ll do the best. We’ll prepare the best we can.

“Yeah, I think the last two races are probably our best opportunity for the 10 car.”

Does he feel like he has the teams best interest to win the title?

“He wants one of his cars to win the championship. We cannot all three win but he wants one car to win, so I don’t think I’m getting less stuff or not so much attention than others. Otherwise, I would say it, to be honest.

“So yeah, I think we have a fair shot for sure.

He started in the Fast 6 and inherited the lead on pure luck with a caution flying just after he hit pit lane for the 1st time.

“Yeah, it was nice to be at the start. I think it was quite good that we started at the front. We had some good pace. Got a bit lucky on the first yellow there. That called me into P1. Scott, the No. 3, was a bit faster than us, and then we got a bit unlucky on the second yellow.

“Yeah, I lost a position with Scott McLaughlin on the restart. I couldn’t really put temp into the turns like he did. He did an awesome job. I had to get back to the podium, so that was the only chance we got, and, yeah, glad it worked out.”

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