IndyCar points leader Alex Palou keeps rolling with Road America victory
ELKHART LAKE, Wis. -- Alex Palou built on his commanding lead in the IndyCar points standings by winning Sunday at Road America for his third victory in his last four events.
Palou won in Chip Ganassi Racing’s No. 10 Dallara-Honda by 4.5610 seconds over Team Penske’s Josef Newgarden, who won at Road America last year. Arrow McLaren’s Pato O’Ward was third, Chip Ganassi Racing’s Scott Dixon fourth and Andretti Autosport’s Colton Herta fifth.
Palou’s victory was the 250th overall win for Chip Ganassi Racing, and it comes after victories on May 13 at the Indianapolis road course and on June 4 at Detroit.
STATS PACKAGE: Full results, points, box score from Road America
The Spaniard has a 74-point lead in the points standings over Ganassi teammate Marcus Ericsson, the biggest margin for any IndYCar driver in three years.
“Yeah, we’ve had really good results so far,” Palou told NBC Sports’ Kevin Lee. “We’re good in points so far, but IndyCar, you never know.”
“I think we all need to be better if we want to catch (Palou),” O’Ward said. “That’s just the reality of it. We had a massive opportunity to capitalize and to win this race, because I feel like I definitely had the pace. We kind of threw that away in our last pit stop. We’re just going to keep on fighting. We win together, we lose together. That’s how it’s always going to be.”
Palou’s weekend finished much better than it started. He spun out in a Saturday morning practice, hitting the tire barrier with the right side of his car -- one of several drivers who stepped over the limit after Road America underwent an offseason repaving the produced smooth asphalt with maximum grip and high speeds.
But after the team worked to rebuild his car later that day, Palou qualified third to put himself in position for another victory. He is seeking his second IndyCar series title in three years after winning the crown in 2021.
“We started with a lot of speed,” Palou said after his seventh career victcory. “Big mistake by my part in practice two. We went back on track, and (the car) was even better than in practice two. We’re going to try and keep it rolling. We have an amazing team behind us.”
Newgarden said Palou “had the field covered” after the last pit stop.
“Disappointing for the way it finished for us just because there was a great opportunity in the middle to win this race,” Newgarden said. “Alex was very good on that final stint. I don’t think we were going to make anything happen there. In the middle there was a great opportunity, we just didn’t capitalize on it. Got pretty dicey with the restarts.”
Herta started from the pole position and led a race-high 33 of 55 laps, but a late pit decision caused him to fade down the stretch.
The No. 26 Dallara-Honda pitted from the lead on Lap 40, a lap before the rest of the lead group. Herta cycled to the lead ahead of the competitors that pitted a lap later but was in a much more precarious fuel situation.
That enabled Palou to close the gap before finally overtaking him on the 49th of 55 laps on the 14-turn, 4.014-mile road course.
Herta continued to fall back in the pack the rest of the way before settling for fifth place. He hasn’t won a race since May 2022 at the Indianapolis road course.
“It’s a frustrating one,” Herta told NBC Sports’ Dillon Welch. “We had the best car. We were cruising the whole time. I had so much more in it, and we never really got to show it because we were always saving fuel, trying to go that lap later. That’s a killer.”
Dixon’s fourth-place finish was remarkable considering the way his weekend started.
The six-time IndyCar Series champion was at fault in a crash with Will Power during a Saturday morning practice that severely damaged both their cars. An angry Power got out of his car, exchanged words with Dixon and shoved him in the chest.
Dixon’s car was damaged badly enough to switch to a new car for the rest of the weekend. He qualified 23rd in the 27-car field but worked his way up near the front of the pack.
With primary compound tires producing as much pace (but with less degradation) as the alternate tires, the new pavement featured many comers and goers in the field.
There were 444 on-track passes, including 386 for position (110 in the top 10 and 32 in the top five) -- all records for IndyCar since its return to Road America in 2016.