Shortly before the car rolled out of their garages for the GMR Indycar Grand Prix, the usual pre-race exchange of texts between Alex Palou and MIM’s CEO Salvatore Gandolfo showed that the driver was in a particular good mood. At Monaco Increase, we have learned to know what it means: Palou felt confident that a win was up for grabs on Saturday. And what a win! A 16.8 seconds margin over second-place driver is something not quite usual in today’s Indycar racing. As Chip Ganassi Racing pointed out, it’s the 2nd greatest margin in the Indy road course history. And to top it off, Palou also put forth the fastest lap of any driver in the race, averaging 123.162 (198.167 Kph) on lap 8 on the twisty infield track.
Although Palou was runner-up at the 2021 Indy 500 and called this year’s podium finisher in Texas his best oval race ever, his five Indycar victories all came on road courses. This probably did not come by chance as the 26-year old’s racing background comprises a vast experience in both Europe and Asia (he was Best Rookie in 2019’s Japanese Super Formula) on this type of circuit. But as in Laguna Seca last year, it was the margin of victory that really impressed the US public and media. The day after the race, Indycar pundit Nathan Brown wrote in the ‘Indianapolis Star’: “Winning by more than 16 seconds in IndyCar those days, where you’re thoroughly, utterly, undeniably dominant, just doesn’t happen when fewer than three-thousandths-of-a-second decided Saturday’s pole on the IMS road course… Unless you’re Chip Ganassi Racing’s Alex Palou”.
And truly, when given the proper car and set-up, 26-years old Palou is a force to be reckoned with. “Since Palou joined Chip Ganassi Racing at the start of the 2021 campaign”, Brown wrote “only seven of the 38 IndyCar races have been decided by 3.4 seconds or more. Only two races have been won by more than 7 seconds. Both have come at the hands of Palou, by 16.8 seconds (Saturday) and a whopping 30.4 seconds (last year at Laguna Seca). He’s the only driver to complete all 610 laps this season (which was the case through just three races, and he’s still going through five) and the only one with top-10s in all five starts”.
Palou stated after the GMR Grand Prix that going into the qualifying and race, his mind was set on the championship. But winning in such a dominant way gives you a special confidence for whatever lies ahead, including the Indy 500: “A win here gives you a lot of confidence and points. You need those wins when you have the car,” Palou was quoted on the same paper in the post-race press conference. “On these days, everything goes so well. The car feels how you want it to feel, and I think once you have your day that you’re comfortable with the car, (a runaway win) feels doable. Obviously, those days don’t come too often here in IndyCar.”
And as preparation for the 500 Qualifying week gets underway, Palou’s focus has shifted to the most iconic event of the season. “We had an amazing test,” Palou had said of the April 27 session on the IMS oval. “It cannot be a better start than what we’ve had so far. We had the car the last three years. We’ve just been close. We’ll keep digging, and hopefully it’ll be our day.”