Race Weekend Central

Alex Palou Keeps Calm, Wins Chaotic Detroit Grand Prix

Spain’s Alex Palou entered Sunday’s (June 4) Chevrolet Detroit Grand Prix as the NTT IndyCar Series points leader.

One masterful performance amidst chaos on the streets of Motor City and pressure from one of IndyCar’s all-time greats, and Palou has firmly established himself as the favorite for the Astor Cup. He’s now 51 points up on second place Marcus Ericsson.

The crucial restart came with 10 laps to go. Will Power made a move on race leader Palou, pulling to the outside on the entry to the turn 3 hairpin and faking the young Spaniard into overshooting the turn. Power tried to cross him under, but made contact with third-place Scott Dixon, pitching the Australian up onto two wheels and triggering anti-stall. 

As the field bunched up, Arrow McLaren’s Alexander Rossi was able to sneak through from fifth place to second.

Forcing Power back into traffic gave Palou just enough of a margin to cruise to his second win of 2023 and the sixth of his career.

“The [No. 10] Ridgeline Lubricants car was on point today,” Palou told NBC Sports. “Honda gave us everything we needed, fuel mileage and all the power, so super proud of the job we did.”

“We had [a gearbox] issue that probably was my fault … couldn’t really upshift, and [Power] was on alternates, so I couldn’t really get up to temperature. Proud that we got it back, and proud that we got another win this year.”

Asked if it feels like another championship year, the 2021 title-winner was coy: “not yet, not yet … I wish we could say that, but we’ll keep focus on the next few races. There’s a few that I really love coming … we’ll keep on pushing.”

Tire strategy was the story at the front for much of the day, as Palou initially vanished over the horizon on his grippy green-walled Firestone alternates, opening up a lead of more than six seconds in the first 15 laps. 

That was about the time that seventh-place starter Power, the first man on the black Firestone primary tires, turned the pressure on. By the time that Palou hit pit road on lap 29, Power had closed to within a second and a half of the top spot. 

See also
Max Verstappen Untouchable in Barcelona, Wins Spanish Grand Prix

Palou jumped back to the front after Power fitted the alternates. But the Team Penske driver maintained the strategic advantage, as a series of cautions let the Aussie run laps without harming his softer tires.

The 2022 champion timed his move to perfection on the lap 56 restart, faking Palou wide and crossing him to the inside at the hairpin.

But just nine laps later, Palou returned the favor.

Third place was Felix Rosenqvist, who stole that position in the closing laps from his teammate Rossi.

Dixon finished a quiet fourth, followed by Rossi and Kyle Kirkwood, who recovered from first-lap contact to score a solid sixth-place result. Seventh was Scott McLaughlin, with fellow Kiwi Marcus Armstrong behind and his fellow Chip Ganassi Racing driver Marcus Ericsson ninth. Newly-minted Indianapolis 500 winner Josef Newgarden completed the top 10.

2023 Detroit Grand Prix Results

After practice and qualifying, many were predicting chaos, and those predictions did not take long to come true. Just like Sunday morning’s Indy NXT race, the initial start was waved off.

In the second attempt at a start, the field didn’t even make it into the first corner (technically, turn 3), as Callum Illott carried too much speed into the braking zone, launching off of the gearbox of Kirkwood’s No. 27.

Kirkwood was able to continue after a rear wing change, but Illott was scored 27th and last.

After a late wreck in last week’s Indianapolis 500, Pato O’Ward did not need a day like Sunday. Arrow McLaren’s Mexican wheelman was running solidly in the top 10 when he hit Detroit’s eye-catching split pit lane for service on lap 36.

What was initially reported as a half-shaft failure was in fact an incorrectly secured left-rear tire. O’Ward was able to rejoin the race, albeit at the tail end of the lead lap. Backed into a corner behind the slow car of Santino Ferrucci, with race leader Palou closing in, O’Ward made a gutsy move on the No. 14. It ended poorly. 

“It was either race over or try and get past [Ferrucci],” O’Ward told NBC Sports. “It ended up being race over. … We’ll move on to Road America.”

See also
Only Yesterday: Steve Park Walks Away After Horrific Pocono Crash

Chaos bit a few big names in Motor City, including Graham Rahal, who understeered into the wall under caution, collecting Benjamin Pedersen.

Romain Grosjean was a one-man highlight reel all afternoon, first taking a quick detour through the runoff area while fighting for a top five.

Then, the Swiss-Frenchman pushed Newgarden around to move back into a solid seventh place.

But the Cinderella story wasn’t meant to be, as Grosjean’s race ended in the turn 4 wall with 20 laps remaining. 

After an off-weekend, the IndyCar field makes their annual pilgrimage to Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin’s legendary four-mile permanent road course. Coverage of the Sonsio Grand Prix at Road America begins June 18 at 1 p.m. ET on NBC and Peacock.

About the author

Jack Swansey primarily covers open-wheel racing for Frontstretch and co-hosts The Pit Straight Podcast, but you can also catch him writing about NASCAR, sports cars, and anything else with four wheels and a motor. Originally from North Carolina and now residing in Los Angeles, he joined the site as Sunday news writer midway through 2022 and is an avid collector (some would say hoarder) of die-cast cars.

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Is it my imagination but does Corvette Robb seem to be a caution waiting to happen?

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