Alex Palou wins Detroit Grand Prix from pole
DETROIT – Alex Palou captured the IndyCar Chevrolet Detroit Grand Prix from the pole, fending off several challenges and three late restarts during a chaotic debut for a new downtown track.
Palou won by 1.1843 seconds in his No. 10 Dallara-Honda over Will Power, followed by Felix Rosenqvist, Scott Dixon and Alexander Rossi.
It’s the second victory this season and sixth overall in the NTT IndyCar Series for Palou, who extended his lead to 51 points in the championship standings.
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“It’s too early,” the 2021 series champion told NBC Sports’ Marty Snider about his championship chances. " We’ve been focused on the next few races. There’s a few I really love coming. We’ll keep pushing.”
Palou led a race-high 74 of 100 laps and overcame losing the lead to Power on Lap 56 restart. The Chip Ganassi Racing driver lost momentum putting putting his car in “emergency mode” to cycle its electronic systems after getting stuck in first gear while warming up his rear tires.
“I was already heading to Turn 2, I switched to emergency mode because that’s the only way to take all the issues out,” Palou said. “It went well, but you lose a lot of performance up-shifting. That’s why Will got us, until the exit of Turn 3, I got it back to normal, then it was all right.
“That was really a panic mode because I didn’t really know what to do. I didn’t know if it was going to work or not because if you get stuck in one gear, you’re done. That was a pretty busy moment.”
Palou needed only nine laps to snatch the lead back from Power.
“I did everything I could,” Power said after his best finish since a runner-up at Portland last September. “He was just too quick, man. Too good today.”
“He just took to this place when we got here,” team owner Chip Ganassi told Snider about Palou. “He was complaining about the track yesterday, but I think it’s his new favorite track today.”
Said Palou: “It was a really fun race. It was a lot better than I expected. We had a lot more grip today than what we did (Friday and Saturday), and I think the track evolved a lot during the weekend.
“Obviously, I had a clean race, but honestly Detroit did a tremendous job. The fans were amazing. I was mind-blown of how many fans we had today being a first-time event. Also the podium on victory lane was really fun. Yeah, hopefully we can tweak some stuff (on the track) and make it even better for next year. But, yeah, cannot wait.”
As expected, there was lots of action on the nine-turn, 1.645-mile layout that made its debut Sunday with seven caution flags chewing up 32 laps – and eliminating some contenders.
One of the best battles was between Arrow McLaren teammates Rosenqvist and Rossi, who slipped from second to fifth in the final five laps.
“I think we got given those spots on the third-to-last restart,” Rossi told NBC Sports’ Dave Burns. “So we kind of inherited second and then ended up back where we started. So it was a good day. We’ll take a top five and move on.”
Rossi said “we’ll discuss it internally” when asked about getting squeezed into the Turn 4 wall by Rosenqvist.
“I was on the inside, and he squeezed me quite a lot, so I had to run into him on exit,” Rosenqvist told Snider. “He played it hard on entry, I played it hard on exit. So I think it was fair. We’ll discuss it. It’s never optimal to do that with teammates. But to race hard, you have to race hard back, so it’s all good.”
Before becoming teammates, Rossi also got the wrong end of a collision with Rosenqvist at Toronto last year. Rosenqvist was confident they could put Detroit behind them just as they did then.
“We race hard, but I think we also race fair,” he said. “Obviously, we like each other. We don’t have any intentions to put each other in the wall. Yeah, I think it’s a good problem to have.
“The Arrow McLaren cars have been up there every race. You’re going to find yourself in a situation where you’re fighting teammates. I think it’s something we’ll discuss internally if we can manage it differently. Obviously there were no team calls on this one, which is cool. They let us battle it out on the track.”
Kyle Kirkwood (who rebounded from falling to 26th in a massive shunt on the first lap) finished sixth, followed by Scott McLaughlin, Marcus Armstrong, Marcus Ericsson and Indy 500 winner Josef Newgarden to round out the top 10.
With 20 laps remaining, Romain Grosjean slammed the wall in Turn 4 while running seventh in his No. 28 Dallara-Honda, which had started third. He later attributed the problem to a suspension failure.
Pato O’Ward’s shot at a decent finish fell apart during a green-flag pit stop on Lap 35. The No. 5 Dallara-Chevy’s left rear wheel was loose as O’Ward left the stall, so he stopped to allow the crew to push him back.
He returned in 26th at the end of the lead lap but then slammed the wall in Turn 9 eight laps later after overshooting the corner.
“Honestly our race went upside down on that pit stop,” O’Ward said. “All downhill from there. It is what it is.”
The yellow flew again during the next restart on Lap 49 as Sting Ray Robb went into the tire barrier in Turn 3 while Christian Lundgaard and Santino Ferrucci (who was trying to fight back onto the lead lap) also were caught scrambling in traffic.
During the caution, Graham Rahal hit the Turn 1 wall and then was rear-ended by rookie Benjamin Pedersen.
“I got a lot of understeer,” Rahal said, struggling to process what had happened to lose control of his No. 15 Dallara-Honda. “It’s on me. I need to see the tape and understand. I’m just disappointed in myself with all the errors this weekend, just not driving well. It’s hard to figure out why, but ultimately it’s on me. I’ve got to perform a heck of a lot better than that, especially on a day like this.
“It’s just not typical of me. I know you’ve got to stay on the dance floor. I don’t know what to say. We weren’t good in the race. We were in pretty bad shape. It’s disappointing. I’ve got to be better. It’s been a really tough couple of months. We need a reset. I need a reset. We need to come back much, much stronger.”
The first incident occurred in the first corner as Callum Ilott rear-ended Kirkwood on the entry into the Turn 3 hairpin (starts and restarts for the race occurred on the longest straightaway off Turn 2).
Kirkwood, who was starting after clipping the wall in qualifying, was able to continue after pitting to change the rear wing of his No. 27 Dallara-Honda.
But Ilott’s day was over after failing to complete a lap.
“I didn’t have anywhere to really go, but it was my bad for kind of being a little bit on the late side,” the Juncos Hollinger Racing driver told NBC Sports’ Kevin Lee. “I was gaining bit of time, and they just checked up a little bit more than I anticipated the last bit. I wasn’t coming with that much more speed, but I just couldn’t slow it down on the last part, so sorry to the team and sorry to Kyle cause that didn’t help him, either. On to the next one.”
After four consecutive weeks of racing at Indianapolis Motor Speedway and on the streets of Detroit, IndyCar will take a one-week break before returning June 18 at Road America.