Palou’s Strategic Triumph: IndyCar Victory Propels Him to Top
Masterstroke of strategy and skill: Alex Palou’s fifth IndyCar victory catapults him to championship lead, setting the stage for an exhilarating Indianapolis 500. Pato O’Ward’s tactical prowess earns him second place, rising to the championship’s runner-up spot. A gripping race of tire strategies, pit-stops, and thrilling overtakes has amplified the anticipation for the upcoming Indy 500.
Alex Palou claimed his fifth IndyCar victory, showcasing a tactically astute performance that propelled him to the top of the championship leaderboard before the Indianapolis 500. Pato O’Ward came second in the Indy road course race, thus advancing to second place in the championship standings.
Starting from third, Palou, a member of Chip Ganassi Racing, rapidly gained positions despite a chaotic start to the race marked by crashes at Turn 1 and Turn 7, which necessitated a caution. He overtook Christian Lundgaard, the first-time pole position holder, at Turn 12 during the first lap.
Their tyre strategies diverged in the second stint. Lundgaard, driving for Rahal Letterman Lanigan, opted for the quicker soft tyres and overtook Palou five laps post his pit stop. However, Palou swiftly regained his lead before Lundgaard’s pit stop at the end of the stint.
With the exception of a brief period when Arrow McLaren’s O’Ward overtook both, Palou managed to reclaim his lead using the harder tyres, while Lundgaard had to push his worn set of soft tyres for another 25 laps.
This allowed Palou to establish a comfortable 6.4-second lead before O’Ward overtook Lundgaard to take the second position.
O’Ward’s strong performance in the second stint, including passing his team-mate Alexander Rossi and building a significant lead over another team-mate, Felix Rosenqvist, enabled him to secure third position entering the final stop, even with visible signs of tyre wear.
Lundgaard overtook Palou during the penultimate stint, which put him six seconds behind Palou with four additional laps on his tyres. On the 59th of 85 laps, Lundgaard initiated the final series of pit stops, prompting others to follow suit.
To avoid losing due to a caution, Palou made his pit stop a lap after Lundgaard. O’Ward planned to stay out longer, betting on the absence of a caution, as this would allow him a brief stint on fresh soft tyres to end the race. However, two cars stalling on the pit lane created enough uncertainty that O’Ward had to pit earlier than planned, with 23 laps remaining on his delicate soft tyres.
This extended stint forced O’Ward to conserve his resources, and Palou’s 10-second lead was ample to secure him the victory. The final stint was relatively calm for Palou as he managed his lead, ultimately steering his car to a win that provided momentum heading into the Indy 500 in May.
O’Ward finished the race in second place, marking his third runner-up finish of the season. His team-mate, Rossi, emerged as a threat for the podium, surpassing Lundgaard with just ten laps left, thanks to his soft tyres and a later pit stop.
This race marked Rossi’s first podium finish with Arrow McLaren since his move from Andretti. Despite consistent performances, headline-grabbing results have eluded him, with a pitlane crash in Texas and a suspension issue at Long Beach negatively impacting his championship standing.
Lundgaard benefitted from a struggle between second-place starter Rosenqvist and Herta, the sole driver remaining competitive on worn-out soft tyres, to secure his second IndyCar podium. This marked a strong weekend for the Rahal team, which had been struggling prior to Lundgaard’s sixth-place finish at Barber.
Herta was penalized for blocking with only seven laps remaining and was forced to cede his position to Rosenqvist.
This resulted in Rosenqvist securing fifth place, his highest rank of the year, as Scott Dixon and Josef Newgarden overtook Herta shortly afterwards.
Dixon, who qualified ninth, has shown improved qualifying performance in 2023 at a track he previously struggled with. However, he got caught up in an incident on the first lap, where Kyle Kirkwood spun Graham Rahal at Turn 1.
This incident put Dixon outside the top 15, but he persistently employed an undercut strategy and utilized two sets of primary tyres to keep progressing. His pace was the primary factor that enabled his recovery.
Newgarden began in 13th place due to a spin in front of him during qualifying, which forced him to abandon his last speedy lap. Thus, finishing in seventh place was an impressive advancement, particularly considering he experienced a slow final pit stop. He believed that, without this delay, he could have finished third.
Marcus Ericsson relinquished his championship lead, falling to third in the overall standings, but managed to finish eighth, ahead of Herta. Rahal, who was forced to pit after being struck by Kirkwood on the first lap, managed to turn his misfortune around with prolonged stints to secure a remarkable top-10 finish.
Romain Grosjean, who started in 18th place, made a mistake at Turn 7 on the first lap. Despite this, he climbed to 11th place using a three-stop strategy, which included an extra stop for a front-wing change, and finished ahead of Penske teammates Will Power and Scott McLaughlin.
Marcus Armstrong, who finished in 16th place, was the highest-ranking rookie in the race.
Here are the final standings from the race:
Position Car Driver Team Engine 1 10 Alex Palou Ganassi Honda 2 5 Pato O’Ward McLaren Chevrolet 3 7 Alexander Rossi McLaren Chevrolet 4 45 Christian Lundgaard RLL Honda 5 6 Felix Rosenqvist McLaren Chevrolet 6 9 Scott Dixon Ganassi Honda 7 2 Josef Newgarden Penske Chevrolet 8 8 Marcus Ericsson Ganassi Honda 9 26 Colton Herta Andretti Honda 10 15 Graham Rahal RLL Honda 11 28 Romain Grosjean Andretti Honda 12 12 Will Power Penske Chevrolet 13 21 Rinus VeeKay Carpenter Chevrolet 14 27 Kyle Kirkwood Andretti Honda 15 11 Marcus Armstrong Ganassi Honda 16 3 Scott McLaughlin Penske Chevrolet 17 29 Devlin DeFrancesco Andretti Honda 18 77 Callum Ilott Juncos Hollinger Chevrolet 19 20 Conor Daly Carpenter Chevrolet 20 30 Jack Harvey RLL Honda 21 78 Agustin Canapino Juncos Hollinger Chevrolet 22 106 Helio Castroneves Meyer Shank Honda 23 14 Santino Ferrucci Foyt Chevrolet 24 55 Benjamin Pedersen Foyt Chevrolet 25 60 Simon Pagenaud Meyer Shank Honda 26 18 David Malukas Coyne/HMD Honda 27 51 Sting Ray Robb Coyne/RWR Honda
Palou IndyCar Indianapolis 500 Palou IndyCar Indianapolis 500 Palou IndyCar Indianapolis 500 Palou IndyCar Indianapolis 500
McLaughlin Triumphs at Barber: Penske’s Intense Battle with Grosjean
Also make sure you follow us on social media Facebook, Twitter, Instagram for all the latest updates between issues.