INDIANAPOLIS – Alex Palou and Chip Ganassi Racing flexed a potent combination of speed and strategy to win the GMR Grand Prix on Saturday on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course, the Spaniard’s first victory of the 2023 NTT INDYCAR SERIES season.
2021 series champion Palou, who started third, drove his No. 10 The American Legion Honda to a 16.8006-second victory over runner-up Pato O’Ward in the No. 5 Arrow McLaren Chevrolet. 2016 Indianapolis 500 winner Alexander Rossi finished third in the No. 7 Arrow McLaren Chevrolet, his first podium result with the team he joined this season after seven years at Andretti Autosport.
SEE: Race Results
“We honestly knew we had a fast car since P1 (first practice) yesterday,” Palou said. “The car has been amazing all weekend. Once we knew we were starting on reds (Firestone alternate tires), I think we knew we were going to fight for the win.
“Amazing work by these guys. I just had to execute.”
Palou’s last victory came in the season-ending Firestone Grand Prix of Monterey last September at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca.
NTT P1 Award winner Christian Lundgaard finished a season-best fourth in the No. 45 Hy-Vee Honda. Felix Rosenqvist rounded out the top five in the No. 6 Arrow McLaren Chevrolet, as his season-best result gave the team three of the top five finishing positions.
Devising the correct tire strategy for the 85-lap race caused considerable head-scratching for strategists and engineers up and down the pit lane Friday evening and Saturday, reflected in the reality that six of the top 10 starters began the race on Firestone primary “black” tires and four started on Firestone alternate “red” tires. INDYCAR rules require each driver to use both tire compounds during road and street course races.
Palou signaled his intent and showed his speed on Lap 1 when he jumped from third to first on alternate tires, taking the top spot in Turn 13 from pole sitter Lundgaard, who was on primary tires.
For the next 65 laps, Palou, Lundgaard, O’Ward, Rosenqvist, Rossi, Scott Dixon, Graham Rahal and Marcus Ericsson swapped the top spot as leaders peeled off the 14-turn, 2.439-mile road course to execute their chosen tire and fuel strategies. The constant shuffle kept strategists on their toes, as one wrong move could have proved pivotal if a caution flag fell at the wrong time.
But the race stayed caution-free after an incident on Lap 2 between…