Alex Palou Strikes Gold at Road America

The thrill of victory for Alex Palou at Road America (Photo: Chris Owens/INDYCAR).

Chip Ganassi Racing prevails once again at Road America after Alex Palou won Sunday’s the REV Group Grand Prix.

The Spaniard, who was a single-point behind the points lead, is now the true man to beat. He’ll leave Road America with a 28-point lead over Pato O’Ward after nine races.

How Alex Palou got the job done was both determination and a bit of luck. The latter because pole sitter Josef Newgarden was the man to beat. That all changed on the final restart when a mechanical problem ended his shot at victory.

Consequently, it was the second time Newgarden lost out on a win in the closing laps. Last Sunday at Belle Isle, Newgarden led 67 laps but lost to O’Ward.

From a trends point of view, you don’t want to be the dominant car. With Newgarden’s loss, it was the sixth straight race where the man led the most laps failed to win.

While Newgarden left the Wisconsin circuit in disgust, it was all smiles for Palou. He’s now the first driver since Dario Franchitti in 2011 to win multiple races for Ganassi that isn’t named Scott Dixon.

What’s next for Alex Palou? Get another W at Mid-Ohio Sunday, July 4.

Podium Reflection:
Alex Palou

Despite increasing his points lead going into Mid-Ohio, the mindset remains the same. Taking each race one step at a time.

“That’s not changing our motivation or our work ethic. Even if we win, we’ve got to continue to be performing to be P1,” said Palou. “Otherwise, we’re not going to last too long there.

“I think until the last race, this championship, it’s not going to be decided.”

Alex Palou is in command of the championship trail (Photo: James Black/INDYCAR).

Additionally, Alex Palou didn’t even think of looking at his mirror when Newgarden’s problems unfolded.

“I just went for the outside. It was quite close,” Palou on passing Newgarden. “Even if he was a bit slower, I was super close. Had to just turn in quite aggressively, and then I just ran.

“I didn’t know if my tires were good enough to keep the lead. It was only two laps, but those two laps when you’re in the lead, they can take forever. The car was really good, and we actually took some of that.”

Herta

After being shut out of the podium last Sunday, Herta indeed got one this time around. It was his first podium effort since his dominant victory at St. Petersburg early in the season.

“It finally happened. I’ve been struggling to get on the podium when I’m not winning,” said Herta. “Feels nice to finally get one, or my second one in my career. It feels good. Team did an amazing job. We seemed to lack a little bit of pace to Alex and Josef. They seemed to be the guys to beat.”

Power

Like Herta, Power is back on the podium steps with a much needed third. That’s because consistency hasn’t been there since finishing second at Barber. Now with two top-10 finishes, the momentum is gradually increasing.

“Even Detroit last week, sixth I was really happy with coming from 20th,” said Power. “I was really happy to get my Fast Six this weekend. Thought this morning if I can get a podium, I’ll be really happy. So finished on the podium and start heading in the right direction.”

Power after finishing third at Road America (Photo: James Black/INDYCAR).

Johnson’s Learning Curve Continue

On Lap 17, Jimmie Johnson’s day nearly came to a crash halt when he brought out the full course caution.

That was a result of getting out of control at the exit of Turn 6 and hit the outside wall. Fortunately, the damage wasn’t severe to put him out of the race. However, he lost a lap because of the safety team getting him back onto the racing surface.

Prior to the race, Johnson has shown progress, highlighted by ending up 14th fastest in final practice. After 55 laps, Johnson ended up the last car running in 22nd.

Andretti Adrenaline Rush

Throughout the first half of the race, both Alexander Rossi and Ryan Hunter-Reay were inseparable.

The Andretti Autosport duo constantly gave hell to each other for a higher top-10 spot. Even had instances where Rossi got sideways, but not once lost control.

On Lap 22, Hunter-Reay was a bit irate with his teammate after trying to pass him for seventh. Saying that Rossi pushed him off after having the momentum entering at the exit of Turn 4.

You thought that was all from Andretti Autosport? Think again.

Five laps later, Colton Herta savagely passed Jack Harvey for seventh in Turn 1 that could’ve turned ugly. Jimmie Johnson, who was a lap down, let them go by inches. Moments later, Herta would then pass Rossi for sixth. Safe to say, this team were showing no mercy.

Herta improved from ninth to seventh points Sunday (Photo: James Black/INDYCAR).

Spicing Things Up – Act I

Grand concern around the INDYCAR paddock was whether the race can be done before a massive rainstorm hits the area.

Any cautions could push the window where it can create pressure for the competition. When Marcus Ericsson lost it before Turn 4, stalling the car as a result, strategy kicked in.

Kevin Magnussen, who was making his series debut, was informed to stay out for track position. It put him to the race lead and had to go max speed, assuring it’ll work to his advantage.

That advantage was working as Magnussen took control of the race. Suddenly on Lap 29, Magnussen went wide in Turn 5 when dealing with the lapped car of Sebastien Bourdais. His No. 7 Arrow McLaren SP team informed him not to sweat Bourdais.

Finally on Lap 31, Magnussen’s moment in the sun (figuratively) was over when Takuma Sato passed him in Turn 5. Magnussen would make his pit stop the following lap.

Magnussen’s day was over when his engine died and had to park it in Turn 6. This brought out the third full course caution on Lap 35.

Magnussen was one of three retirees Sunday (Photo: Joe Skbinski/INDYCAR).

Spicing Things Up – Act II

During the caution period for Magnussen’s exit, a few drivers gambled to make one last run. Rossi thought about it but pulled a sike. Jack Harvey on the other hand pitted and so did Oliver Askew, Conor Daly and Simon Pagenaud.

At that point, they had to make the final 18 laps count if a solid result was palpable.

Back out front, Newgarden was in control of the race until pitting one last time on Lap 41. A lap later, Palou followed suit, but it wasn’t anywhere near enough to be ahead of Newgarden.

When both made their final stop, off-strategy was vibrant with Max Chilton leading. Those who pitted under caution, all but Pagenaud were inside the top-five with Askew running in third.

Chilton finally pitted with seven to go, giving the lead to Askew until he gave it up with four to go. Askew, who was filling in for the injured Rinus VeeKay, wound up 12th. Chilton on the other hand, scored his first top-10 of the season.

Askew may have pitted in a terrible time. That’s because a right rear suspension broke from Ed Jones’s machine, causing him to spin in the Canada Corner. That brought out an ill-timed fourth full course caution, bunching the field up for one last restart.

Newgarden leading the way at Road America (Photo: James Black/INDYCAR).

Two Lap Dash

A quicky yellow meant Newgarden really had to push it to the limit which he initially did over Palou. That wouldn’t last at all as once again Newgarden was snake bitten. Something from the engine popped and lost tremendous power.

For the second straight race in a row, Newgarden’s dominance didn’t pay off and wound up with a demoralizing 21st. Visually, he was upset as Team Penske’s winless streak continues.

During post-race, Newgarden explained he was trying to shift into sixth gear but failed to take the gear selection.

“I was stuck in fifth. Tried getting up to sixth, but it wouldn’t go,” said Newgarden. “Stuck in fifth into Turn 1 and I could not get it to upshift after that. Tried staying out the mayhem, but it’s disappointing for all of us.”

Palou’s smile is worth a thousand words in Elkhart Lake (Photo: James Black/INDYCAR).

Meanwhile, the championship trail was now totally controlled at the hands of Palou. He took the double checkered flag with jubilation after beating Herta by 1.9106 seconds.

Road America really has become Chip Ganassi’s playground, especially for the No. 10 team. Last year it was Felix Rosenqvist, this year it was the resilient Spaniard.

Perhaps the driver of the afternoon might’ve been Romain Grosjean, who finished fifth.

The Frenchmen wowed the Wisconsin crowd with his ballsy drive, especially when overtaking his competitors in Turn 5. Might’ve gone wide, but certainly got the job done to showcase this rookie will be tough all season.

Results: Palou, Herta, Power, Dixon, Grosjean, Ericsson, Rossi, Sato, O’Ward and Chilton

luisdtorres94@hotmail.com'
Luis Torres

Throughout my young motorsports media career, my number-one goal is to be a personnel that can be flexible with my writing and photography in the world of NASCAR, INDYCAR and ARCA (occasionally F1 and IMSA stuff as well). Whether it's the Daytona 500 or an ARCA Menards Series West race at Evergreen Speedway, content delivery is vital because this is my main passion and what keeps me going.

I've dealt with several challenges in my life, such as autism and making most out of trips despite relying on transportation. Even my quest of finding acceptance in my profession which has been my biggest challenge since graduating from college in 2016. Despite those hurdles with Motorsports Tribune and now The Podium Finish, I promise that you'll see excellence with my content.

Outside of media, I'm super vocal about my musical tastes that goes from Metallica to The Aces. Not only that, expect my social media filled with GIFs about my Seattle Seahawks because they make things a roller coaster experience.

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