MADISON, Ill — Alex Palou came into this weekend’s Bommarito Automotive Group 500 (6 p.m. ET, USA, INDYCAR Radio Network) knowing he was fighting an uphill battle. Short ovals haven’t been the places to where he’s necessarily exceled at during his brief NTT INDYCAR Series tenure so far.
That’s why his 3rd place finish the last time out on the streets of Nashville was so crucial. The defending series champion was in the midst of a backslide. In his previous 9 starts he had 1 top 5. That dropped him from 1st in points entering the Month of May activities at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway to 6th.
So, to move up tp 5th and only being 33 points out felt like a massive win. Even in the drama of a court case saga between he and his current employer Chip Ganassi Racing, he’s still in the hunt for a 2nd straight title.
He’s still performing well with 5 top 10’s finishes in his last 6 starts including 4 of which in the top 6, it’s just that something was missing in terms of all out pace.
That came in Nashville.
He expected it to take a bit of a dip here at the World Wide Technology Raceway however.
“I mean, I’ve been okay in some oval races. Let’s say Indy, it’s something that suits my driving style. I am understanding a bit more the other ovals. Then we go to Iowa, race one I was quite confident, race two I was nowhere. We’re just trying to find a way,” Palou said on Friday morning.
“I don’t know, we want to win. Like, I’m not going to go out thinking that a top 10 is good. Thinking realistically, it’s obviously not my best chance to win a race this year.
“I’ll do the best I can. I’ll try to improve as much as possible during both practices, which is good for me, then try to get the best result possible in the race, allow us to keep fighting on the last two races.
“We cannot give up any position here.”
A few hours later, he was sitting there 2nd in practice. A few hours after that, he qualified 5th in his No. 10 Dallara-Honda.
To do so on a track that rewards qualifying and track position, this is a great sign that maybe he’s figuring this place out quicker than expected. That’s scary for the field.
The final 2 races are places to where he finished 1st and 2nd respectively at last year. With him surging again, he’s sending a message to the garage.