From Paul Kelly | IndyCar
ELKHART LAKE, Wis. (Sunday, June 18, 2023) – The juggernaut known as Alex Palou reached top gear Sunday, winning the Sonsio Grand Prix at Road America presented by AMR for his third victory in the last four NTT INDYCAR SERIES races.
Palou drove his No. 10 The American Legion Honda fielded by Chip Ganassi Racing to victory by 4.5610 seconds over Josef Newgarden in the No. 2 PPG Team Penske Chevrolet. Pato O’Ward finished third in the No. 5 Arrow McLaren Chevrolet, his fourth podium finish in eight races this season.
“It’s been an amazing weekend,” Palou said. “I’m super happy. They gave me the pit stop that gave us the win. It was an amazing day for the No. 10 American Legion Ganassi car, and we’re going to keep it going.”
The victory expanded Palou’s lead to 74 points – more than one race worth of points – over teammate Marcus Ericsson in the championship race as the Spaniard aims for another season title to add to his 2021 crown.
This was the seventh career victory for Palou, with wins in the GMR Grand Prix on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course and the Chevrolet Detroit Grand Prix presented by Lear also added to his tally in the last five weeks. Palou’s win also was the 250th victory for Chip Ganassi Racing across all racing disciplines.
CGR also flexed its muscle as the only team with two drivers in the top five at the finish. Six-time series champion Scott Dixon drove from the 23rd starting position to place fourth in the No. 9 PNC Bank Chip Ganassi Racing Honda. NTT P1 Award winner Colton Herta finished fifth in the No. 26 Gainbridge Honda.
Palou and CGR prevailed this weekend with equal amounts of speed and resiliency forged through winning races and championships. Palou crashed heavily in Turn 14 during practice Saturday morning, giving the Ganassi crew just 90 minutes for repairs before NTT P1 Award qualifying. Palou didn’t skip a beat, qualifying third behind Herta and O’Ward.
“We started with a lot of speed,” Palou said. “Big mistake by my part in practice two. We went back on track, and it (car) was even better than in practice two. We’re going to try and keep it rolling. We have an amazing team behind us.”
Palou lurked near the front the entire race, twice leading for a lap or two as Herta was on a slightly different pit stop cycle. Herta made his final stop on Lap 40 of 55, with Palou pitting for the last time one lap later, both drivers taking Firestone primary (black sidewall) tires.
That one lap between the contenders’ pit stops made a big difference in the outcome. Herta was forced to save fuel over the final 14 laps, with Palou on full power. Palou used that speed advantage to slice Herta’s lead to two-tenths of a second by Lap 45.
Palou then pulled right on Herta’s gearbox, ready to pounce for the lead. The decisive moment came on Lap 49, when Palou passed Herta on the outside in Turn 1 and drove away. It was the last of nine lead changes and one of an event-record 32 passes among the top five in this race.
Newgarden, O’Ward and Dixon were able to catch Herta in the final six laps. But no one could mount any challenge to Palou, who is turning racetracks across North America into his personal asphalt playgrounds lately.
“It’s a frustrating one,” said Herta, who led a race-high 33 of 55 laps. “We had the best car. We were cruising the whole time. I had so much more in it, and we never really got to show it because we were always saving fuel, trying to go that lap later. That’s a killer.”
Palou encountered only one nervous moment after taking the lead for good, narrowly missing the No. 11 Ridgeline Lubricants Honda of CGR teammate Marcus Armstrong as he lapped him in the fastest section of the 14-turn, 4.014-mile circuit on the final lap.
Palou will split $10,000 with Chip Ganassi Racing and his chosen charity, The American Legion, for his victory as part of the PeopleReady Force For Good Challenge. He has won two of the three legs needed to earn a $1 million bonus, with a win on the road courses at IMS and Road America and the street circuit at Detroit. Palou can secure the bonus with a win in any of the three remaining three oval races, a doubleheader July 22-23 at Iowa Speedway and Aug. 27 at World Wide Technology Raceway.
The next NTT INDYCAR SERIES race is The Honda Indy 200 at Mid-Ohio presented by the 2023 Accord Hybrid on Sunday, July 2 at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course near Columbus, Ohio.
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