INDIANAPOLIS — For a race that saw the second most passes (286) and tied for the most lead changes (12), you’d think it was a thrilling finish to Saturday’s GMR Grand Prix. Instead, it was Alex Palou putting a clinic on the 27 car field by crossing the famed yard of bricks 16.8006-seconds ahead of second place finisher Pato O’Ward.
That buttkicking though didn’t start at the 3:45 p.m. local green flag. It started far earlier. It started at 11:45 a.m. this morning.
At that time when he strapped into his No. 10 Dallara-Honda for the morning warmup practice session, the race plan was already tentatively in place. They were just going to use this 30 minute session to confirm it.
However, what they quickly learned swayed them another direction.
“Well, we were going to do a bigger gamble before warmup, which was starting on used reds,” Palou said.
That session showed he and his team that reds were going to react a lot differently this year compared to the past. See, in most years, the reds had minimal fall off. They were the preferred tires. This year, they weren’t.
So, they decided to start on fresh reds and then go blacks the rest of the way. They were the only ones up front that decided to start on the alternates. That confused them.
“We knew that since practice, honestly, that we wanted to start on reds. I was surprised that not other people at the front started on reds,” he admitted.
“For us it was clear. We were struggling a little bit more than some of the guys on used reds in the warmup. But still it’s not like they were amazing. We knew that we didn’t want to use used reds. That’s why we started on new alternates, try to get the lead, try to get a big gap, like two, three, four, seconds, then work on our pace on blacks.
“Once I saw the starting grid with the tires, we were like, Okay, we’re in a good place. Still, you have to do it. We knew we were on the right strategy for the 10 car, but you still had to do it on track.”
Palou more than did it on track. He was untouchable. He took over the lead for the final time on Lap 65 and never looked back in doing so.
“Amazing,” Palou said of having a car that good. “I mean, everything goes so well. The car feels how you want it to feel. Even though we had a lot of traffic by lap cars at the end on the last stint, yeah, we didn’t have too much, so we could run our pace.
“I think once you have your day that you’re comfortable with the car, it’s doable to do. Obviously those days don’t come too often here in INDYCAR. It’s so tight. With three, four pit stops, it’s tough to do.
“Yeah, glad that we made it today. A win is the same if you do it by 30 seconds or by 1/10th. Obviously feels better for myself, for the confidence. Yeah, a win is a win.”