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Alex Palou was ‘ready’ for Ganassi lawsuit as ‘way you resolve conflicts as grown people’

Alex Palou Ganassi sued

May 21, 2022; Indianapolis, Indiana, USA; NTT Data Chip Ganassi Racing driver Alex Palou (10) stands next to his car during Armed Forces practice and qualifying day for the 106th Indianapolis 500 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Mandatory Credit: Marc Lebryk-USA TODAY Sports

Marc Lebryk-USA TODAY Sports

INDIANAPOLIS – Alex Palou learned Tuesday night that he was being sued by Chip Ganassi Racing, but the defending NTT IndyCar Series champion wasn’t surprised by the lawsuit.

“I was ready for it obviously,” Palou told NBC Sports in a Thursday interview at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. “Everybody knows that there’s a conflict, and that’s the way you resolve conflicts as grown people, so yeah. I was ready for it.”

Aside from legal proceedings that seem virtually unprecedented in auto racing history, Palou said little has changed since the contract dispute that has left him being claimed by two teams for 2023.

Hours after Ganassi announced it was exercising an option on Palou’s contract for next season, McLaren Racing announced that Palou had signed to join its organization without specifying which racing series (the team fields cars in Formula One, IndyCar, Formula E and Extreme).

Palou still hasn’t talked to team owner Chip Ganassi in nearly three weeks, and he has yet to talk to any Chip Ganassi Racing executives since the lawsuit became public Wednesday morning after being filed Tuesday afternoon in an Indiana commerical court.

But Palou still maintains it’s business as usual for his No. 10 Dallara-Honda team. He worked on the driving simulator Wednesday to prepare for Saturday’s race on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course, and he still believes he can defend his title in part because communication remains “normal” with his crew.

“I’m trying to keep them as focused as possible on the work we have now, which is try to perform on track,” he said. “And try to block as much as possible the noise around us. I just try to communicate as much as possible and keep everybody that works on the 10 car as focused as possible.

“To be honest, I haven’t asked for opinions (about the lawsuit). We’ve been maybe three weeks into this environment. We know that our job is to perform on track. They know I have no idea how these things work. I’m not a lawyer or anything like that. Never been on any lawsuit. They never ask me anything on that aspect.”

Palou’s lawyer issued a statement Thursday about the lawsuit.

“We are disappointed that Chip Ganassi Racing would attempt to keep Alex from an opportunity to compete in Formula One, and even more so with CGR’s public court filings and continued commentary to the press on this matter,” Rachel E. Epstein of Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan, LLP. “Alex has consistently given his very best effort to CGR and it is unfortunate that CGR would attempt to deny Alex this opportunity. We would hope the parties can resolve this amicably, but if not, we look forward to resolving this matter in a private arbitration, as CGR has requested.”

Asked by NBC Sports if pursuing an F1 ride was the root of the conflict, Palou said “it’s what the lawyer said.”

Did he agree with it?

“I’m not a lawyer, I’m just a racing driver,” he said. “That’s why I have management people and lawyers office and they know how to manage all that stuff, so yeah, I have full confidence and trust in that people that works with and for me.”

Though Ganassi told the Associated Press this week that he expects Palou will be driving for the team in ’23, Palou reiterated that he would be part of “the McLaren family for next year.”

For the third consecutive race, Palou’s car will be wrapped in colors and company logos other than NTT Data, his regular full-time sponsor, but he said the contract dispute hadn’t affected his sponsors.

“That was the plan ahead of the season,” he said. “We have really sparkly bright American Legion car this weekend, which looks really good. It’s all good.”

Palou will make laps in practice Friday after answering questions for about 30 minutes about his status Thursday.

“I know it’s a topic for this weekend and probably for the next one,” he said. “I completely understand it.”

So how will he keep the attention from affecting him?

“I’m here,” he said. “I’m at the media center with 25 people that for sure are going to ask me the same question over and over for an hour. I’m ready. On my crew, I don’t think they’re going to ask or want to know. They want to win. That’s all that matters.

“The only thing I have in mind is to win. I just try to focus. It could be a lot worse, to be honest. I could be a kid that doesn’t have a seat and seeing that from TV. But I have probably one of the best seats and a chance to win this title for the second time in a row. Yeah, man. I’m ready for it. It could be a little worse.”