Alex Palou won Saturday’s (May 13) GMR Grand Prix with blistering pace to take his first win of the 2023 NTT IndyCar Series season.
Palou ended the race on scuffed (slightly used) primary tires after pitting for the final time with 25 laps remaining in the race. By the time the final round of pit stops cycled through, Palou led Pato O’Ward by over 10 seconds; the Spaniard was free from there on to cruise to the checkered flag.
“Once we knew that we were starting on reds, I think we knew that we were going to fight for the win,” Palou told NBC’s Marty Snider. “Amazing work by these guys, I just had to execute … I’m focused on the championship at the moment … super happy that we’re now with the first win of the season, last year it came too late. So yeah, we’re starting off with the right foot.”
Palou made a fast jump at the drop of the green flag to challenge first-time polesitter Christian Lundgaard into the first turn of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course. The Danish driver made a strong defense against Palou into turn 1, but the 2021 champion made quick work of his adversary and took the lead by the end of the first lap. From there, the race was largely Palou’s to control until the end – and control he did, leading 52 of the 85 laps and taking the championship lead in the process.
O’Ward finished second, over 16 seconds behind Palou. Joining the front two on the podium is Alexander Rossi, his first podium result as an Arrow McLaren driver. Lundgaard was made to settle for fourth, after his Rahal Letterman Lanigan team’s tire strategy proved to be short of that of Palou and Chip Ganassi Racing.
Felix Rosenqvist, who spent the last handful of laps hassling Lundgaard for fourth place, the final piece of a potential 2-3-4 finish for Arrow McLaren, came home in fifth place, and promptly ran out of fuel after crossing the finish line. Scott Dixon put together a late race charge to take sixth place ahead of Josef Newgarden, with Marcus Ericsson, Colton Herta and Graham Rahal rounding out the top 10.
Tire strategy proved the name of the game throughout the race. Contrary to conventional wisdom, the red-walled Firestone alternate tires displayed little to no staying power, forcing many drivers to take short stints on the alternates, lest they find themselves quickly swallowed by drivers running primary tires. Palou exhibited supreme speed and tire management throughout the day and left the competition with no viable avenue to challenge his grip on the top spot.
The first caution of the day came just two laps into the action when Sting Ray Robb overcooked the entry into turn 7 and collided with his Dale Coyne Racing teammate David Malukas. Both drivers’ days were ended by the contact, leaving Malukas to finish 26th and Robb 27th, respectively.
Shortly after racing resumed, defending IndyCar champion Will Power was involved in contact with Kyle Kirkwood and quickly found himself spinning through turn 2. Power was able to keep his No. 12 Verizon Chevrolet rolling and avoided bringing out a caution. However, Kirkwood was controversially stung with an avoidable contact penalty and was forced to concede position to Power, who was at the tail-end of the lead lap by the time the decision reached the drivers from race control.
Simon Pagenaud ended his day stranded at the end of pit lane with a loose right-rear wheel, though his Meyer Shank Racing team was unable to immediately confirm what caused the mechanical failure that left Pageanud stationary just short of pit exit.
The next round of the 2023 IndyCar season will be the 107th running of the Indianapolis 500, contested on Sunday, May 28, at 11 a.m. ET with coverage on NBC.
About the author
Alex is the IndyCar Editor at Frontstretch, having initially joined as an entry-level contributor in 2021. He also Co-founded The Asia Cable, a publication focused on the international affairs and politics of the Asia-Pacific region, in 2023. With previous experience in China, Japan and Poland, Alex is particularly passionate about the international realm of motorsport and the politics that make the wheels turn - literally - behind the scenes.
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