Race Weekend Central

Alex Palou Overcomes Adversity for 2nd Place in Toronto

Alex Palou has faced adversity for the first time in the 2023 season, and he passed the test with flying colors on Sunday (July 16).

Palou, who came into Sunday’s Honda Indy Toronto on a three-race win streak and a 110-point lead over Chip Ganassi Racing teammate Scott Dixon in the championship standings, struggled in Saturday’s qualifying and failed to advance out of the first round for the first time this season.

After qualifying in the first two rows in each of the last six races, Palou was relegated to a season-worst 15th-place starting position. With closest pursuers Dixon and Josef Newgarden qualifying ahead of him, it looked like a ripe opportunity for either of them, or both, to cut into that championship lead.

Not so fast.

Despite suffering mid-race wing damage, Palou worked his way up through the field, and when the checkered flag fell on Christian Lundgaard’s first NTT IndyCar Series win, Palou ended up one step below on the podium in second place.

See also
Christian Lundgaard Dominates Toronto for 1st IndyCar Win

For Palou, it was his fifth time on the podium in the last five races – the other four were all wins – and his eighth consecutive top-five finish. Oh yeah, and he stretched his lead heading into next weekend’s doubleheader at Iowa to 117 points over Dixon (417-300) and 126 over Newgarden.

“Yeah, it feels great,” Palou said after the race. “Honestly, we had a really fast car. We wouldn’t be here without a fast car. I’m glad that he were with able to overcome. It’s not easy in IndyCar and especially on races like that. I think our race was a lot more difficult than it might seem if you look at the results. Like, at one point I was in the wall. I didn’t know if we were going to be able to make it from there or not. We had to overtake quite a lot of cars on track, manage the fuels, manage the tires. It was a tough race, for sure.”

In the closing minutes of Saturday qualifying, Palou was on a lap that looked liked it would be good enough to advance to the next round. But as rain moved in and moisture began to accumulate on the track, lap times slowed and Palou’s fast lap set earlier in the session was not enough to advance.

Palou didn’t blame the weather, instead saying the car didn’t have enough pace and they didn’t improve enough when they switched to the alternate tires.

See also
Alex Palou Fails to Advance in Qualifying, Will Start 15th at Toronto

Sunday morning brought improvement, though, as Palou was fifth-quick in the morning warm-up, one spot ahead of Lundgaard, who would be starting on pole.

When the green flag fell, Palou moved up through the field and ran as high as seventh in the middle portion of the race as other teams opted to pit early. He was running ninth when he pitted on Lap 37, and when the yellow flew five laps later as the result of Romain Grosjean’s incident, pitted again to get off the green alternate tires seven laps later.

Running 13th on the lap 46 restart, adversity struck again. After Kyle Kirkwood punted Helio Castroneves from behind, Palou tried to squeeze past Castroneves’ stopped machine and brushed his front wing against the turn 11 wall, suffering wing damage in the process.

“I went on the inside because they didn’t go when it was green,” Palou said of the restart. “Everybody started going, and I didn’t want to get overtaken. I think I got checked up, braked, and [Kirkwood] spun [Castroneves].

“Then I just tried to avoid [Castroneves] but he hit me, and I hit the wall. I don’t know how, but the engine was still running, and we were able to drive off only losing a couple of spots.”

The team decided to allow him to continue, and through more pit stops, Palou had advanced to second on lap 61.  With his wing dangling precipitously in the final laps of the race, Palou held off a late-race assault from Colton Herta, saved enough fuel to get to the end and brought his damaged car home in one piece.

Palou wasn’t able to see the damage until late in the race when the left side of the wing began to show up in his field of vision. He was certainly happy that it held on.

“Yeah, I was pretty surprised,” he said. “I think it was only the vinyl, like, the stickers that were holding it because there’s nothing else there. So, yeah, pretty impressive.”

Palou and the rest of the IndyCar Series heads to Iowa for two races on the lightning-fast short oval. Palou finished sixth and 13th in the two Iowa races last year.

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