With flawless driving and a perfectly adaptable strategy from his Chip Ganassi Racing pit wall, Alex Palou prevailed to win the Indianapolis Grand Prix at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course on Saturday afternoon.
Pole-winner Christian Lundgaard led the field into turn one at the start of the 85-lap race, which kicked off the famous Month of May at Indianapolis. Palou started directly behind him on a set of alternate tyres, and put that grip advantage to good use by taking the lead in the final corner complex.
There was a short interruption at the start when Dale Coyne Racing team mates Sting Ray Robb and David Malukas collided in turn seven, causing the only full course caution of the race. Robb was too eager in trying to defend his position from Romain Grosjean and walloped the left-rear of Malukas’ car.
From the moment the race restarted, many expected the race to favour the softer alternate-compound tyres. But as the first stint developed, it became apparent that the harder primary compound tyres would be the ones to go with over a long green-flag run. That became apparent as Lundgaard began to close down what had been a five-second deficit to Palou, before the 2021 IndyCar Series champ pitted on lap 18. Lundgaard pitted two laps later, and rejoined behind Palou after the first pit cycle.
Now with Lundgaard on the softer tyre, the RLL driver re-took the net lead within four laps. As the stint ran long, again, the alternate compound tyres fell off rapidly towards the end. Palou re-took the lead on lap 42.
Lundgaard came in at the end of that lap, and a crucial tactical miscue saw him take on another, used set of alternate tyres, while Palou’s pit wall put him on primary tyres to the end of the race – first on lap 43, and again at lap 60.
When these stops were finished, Palou was leading by around ten seconds, and all the young Spaniard had to do was reel off a mistake-free stint to claim his fifth career IndyCar Series win – all on permanent road courses – and his first at the storied “Brickyard”.
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Palou’s victory was also important as it propelled him to the lead of the IndyCar Series drivers’ championship, heading into Indianapolis 500 time trials next weekend.
Pato O’Ward was boxed into having to run a fresh set of alternate tyres to the end of the race. While two stints on alternate tyres didn’t work for Lundgaard’s pursuit of victory, it did work to the Mexican’s…