Palou drives away from field at Indy

INDIANAPOLIS — With eight laps to go, it was Alex Palou’s race to lose.

The 2021 NTT IndyCar Series champion led 52 of the 85 laps to win the GMR Indy Grand Prix at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

“We knew we had a fast car honestly since practice, since we were all off the trailers,” he said. “The car was really, really good. I was comfortable. We missed a little bit on pole, yesterday, but we knew we had a fast car.”

It’s his fifth career IndyCar victory and first since the season-finale at Laguna Seca in 2022.

“Yeah, every win is special, honestly,” he said. “We’ve been close here. We had little bit of bad luck. I know in ’21 we had a failure when we were going for the fight for the win at the end. It was the first race that everything came perfectly, the strategy, the tires, the speed of the car, myself obviously.

“Super proud. It’s a special place. You can feel that in the car just with the fans that we had already since practice one. There’s something about this place obviously. Even if it’s not the big one, it’s still special.

“So super proud of the first win of the season, first win with the American Legion, as well, and first win at the IMS. Couldn’t be better.”

Pato O’Ward had fresh red tires, but couldn’t overcome a 10-second gap before he reached his tires’ crossover lap and finished runner-up, 16 seconds behind.

“Super stoked for the team,” he said. “We put three cars in the top-five. Fricking hard to do in this series with how competitive it is. Just stoked for everybody in the organization, for our 5 crew.

“We made our strategy really work, right? I just think today Palou and Ganassi were very, very strong, so we couldn’t quite get them there in the end.

“Historically this hasn’t been the best of tracks for us. So this is awesome to see just the massive step forward we’ve taken here in race pace. Super happy to see that.

“Rolling with some great momentum into our Super Bowl.”

Alexander Rossi rounded out the podium, after he overtook Christian Lundgaard into Turn 7 with 10 to go.

“Like Pato said, to get three cars in the top-five is near on impossible these days,” he said. “Arrow McLaren has done a phenomenal job all year. You can’t talk about how challenging it is to add a car in the off-season. They’ve done it with relative apparent ease. There’s a lot of work behind the scenes.

“Really proud to get the first podium for the team, the first one as part of Team Chevy. It was a good day. We’ve had a really strong pace on Sundays, we just haven’t gotten the results that we feel like we deserve. We’re missing a little bit on Saturdays.

“The pieces are coming together. I’ve got an awesome team, awesome teammates around me.”

Pole sitter Christian Lundgaard and Felix Rosenqvist rounded out the top-five.

Scott Dixon, Josef Newgarden, Marcus Ericsson, Colton Herta and Graham Rahal rounded out the top-10.

Race summary

INDIANAPOLIS – MAY 13: Alex Palou races Felix Rosenqvist, during the NTT IndyCar Series GMR Indy Grand Prix at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway on May 13, 2023, in Indianapolis. Photo: Simon Scoggins/SpeedwayMedia.com

Lundgaard led the field to green at 3:46 p.m. ET. He and Palou touched in Turn 1, but Palou overtook him in Turn 13 to lead the first lap.

“We knew starting on the alternates we needed to go hard and try and get the lead as fast as possible,” Palou said. “I think the alternates had two, three laps that they were a lot better. Afterwards, you kind of got stuck behind.

“I tried in Turn 1. He went really aggressive. It was right, it was perfect what he did, but yeah, I wanted it to be something easier (smiling). We were able to get it on the last corner. That was good.”

Rahal contacted someone also, and dropped through the field. On Lap 7, Will Power drove Kyle Kirkwood wide into Turn 1. Entering Turn 2, Kirkwood turned him. IndyCar gave him an avoidable contact penalty and he dropped seven spots, behind Power.

By Lap 15, Palou hit the crossover point on his red tires and Lundgaard cut the gap by over a second in three laps. Palou pitted from the lead on Lap 18. Lundgaard stayed out for two laps, before changing over to reds on Lap 20. Palou cycled ahead, but Lundgaard ran him down and overtook him down Hulman Boulevard on Lap 24.

Meanwhile, Rahal inherited the lead, thanks to multiple stops from his Lap 1 hit. By Lap 30, however, Lundgaard chewed half a second a lap into his lead, and Rahal pitted from the lead on Lap 31.

Lundgaard’s reds hit their crossover lap on Lap 37. After that, Palou on blacks ate into his lead and overtook him into Turn 1 for the lead on Lap 42. Before he crossed the start/finish line, Lundgaard pitted from second for used reds. Meanwhile, Palou followed suit on Lap 43, but took sticker blacks.

Lundgaard pitted from third on Lap 60 for sticker blacks. Palou responded a lap later, but took used blacks. He cycled out ahead of Lundgaard, on new blacks, and O’Ward, on fresh reds.

This set up the run to the finish.

What else happened

Entering Turn 7 on Lap 2, Romain Grosjean clipped David Malukas, who spun into Sting Ray Robb.

That was the only caution of the race.

Nuts and bolts

The race lasted one hour, 47 minutes and 57 seconds, at an average speed of 115.234 mph. There were 12 lead changes among eight different drivers, and one caution for three laps.

Palou kicks off the Month of May with a six-point lead over O’Ward.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of SpeedwayMedia.com

Tucker White
Tucker White
I've followed NASCAR for well over 20 years of my life, both as a fan and now as a member of the media. As of 2024, I'm on my ninth season as a traveling NASCAR beat writer. For all its flaws and dumb moments, NASCAR at its best produces some of the best action you'll ever see in the sport of auto racing. Case in point: Kyle Larson's threading the needle pass at Darlington Raceway on May 9, 2021. On used-up tires, racing on a worn surface and an aero package that put his car on the razor's edge of control, Larson demonstrated why he's a generational talent. Those are the stories I want to capture and break down. In addition to NASCAR, I also follow IndyCar and Formula 1. As a native of Knoxville, Tennessee, and a graduate of the University of Tennessee, I'm a diehard Tennessee Volunteers fan (especially in regards to Tennessee football). If covering NASCAR doesn't kill me, down the road, watching Tennessee football will. I'm also a diehard fan of the Atlanta Braves, and I lived long enough to see them win a World Series for the first time since 1995 (when I was just a year old). I've also sworn my fan allegiance to the Nashville Predators, though that's not paid out as much as the Braves. Furthermore, as a massive sports dork, I follow the NFL on a weekly basis. Though it's more out of an obligation than genuine passion (for sports dorks, following the NFL is basically an unwritten rule). Outside of sports, I'm a major cinema buff and a weeb. My favorite film is "Blazing Saddles" and my favorite anime is "Black Lagoon."

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