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Alex Palou pulls away from Will Power to win Sonsio Indy GP and retake points lead

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Posted at 6:04 PM, May 11, 2024
and last updated 2024-05-13 10:41:20-04
INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Alex Palou’s first Indianapolis Grand Prix title fueled his second IndyCar Series title run.

He’s hoping another dominant victory on Indianapolis Motor Speedway’s road course produces a similar result — perhaps even a more monumental win in two weeks.

The Spaniard beat his top two challengers off pit row on his final stop Saturday and outmaneuvered three-time race winner Will Power on the race’s only restart to beat Power to the yard of bricks by 6.6106 seconds.

Christian Lundgaard finished third, more than eight seconds behind Palou on the 14-turn 2.439-mile course.

“It’s tough but it’s one of those races that you're not really limited on the tires, so you can just go hard,” he said. “I would say last year we had a lot more advantage last year than this year, but I would still say the fact we can go 100%, pushing every single lap, maybe that's why we see a bigger differences."

For Palou, it was another milestone moment in his fifth IndyCar season.

The 27-year-old led a race-high 39 of 85 laps, captured his 10th career win, his first official win this season and his first win since becoming a father in December. Naturally, he also wished his wife, Esther, a happy Mother's Day.

Palou did win March’s exhibition all-star race, giving Chip Ganassi Racing three wins in the last four IndyCar events, and he became the first back-to-back Indy GP winner since Power in 2017 and 2018.

The victory also put Palou atop the season standings, 12 points ahead of Power, with the season's biggest race up next.

Power earned his 31st career runner-up finish, which is sixth all-time. But the Australian with Team Penske still hasn’t won a race since June 2022.

But he was at a significant disadvantage
with two team members — strategist Ron Ruzewski and engineer Robbie Atkinson — each serving a two race suspension for a cheating scandal. And yet David Faustino, who made the calls Saturday, still had Power racing near the front until Power's used red tires wore down during the race's final stint.

“Just didn’t quite have enough on that restart," Power said. "I had to lift coming into the last corner, just had too much push. Had to lift, otherwise it would have been an interesting battle into Turn 1. I didn’t know whether to go for the inside or the outside but he made it very clear he was going to blow up the inside, so I kind of went the outside.”

It marked the second straight year Palou dominated the race, though he didn’t come close to matching last year’s victory margin of nearly 17 seconds.

Still, he had more than enough to hold off Power's last strong challenge and then spent the rest of the racing padding his lead.

“He had the shorter first gear, so his restart was a little bit better than mine," Palou said of his move on the restart. “I just saw it coming and I had to defend. I didn't want to give up the lead."

Lundgaard, the Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing driver from Denmark, led 35 laps.

Two of Palou’s teammates — six-time series champ Scott Dixon and Marcus Armstrong — rounded out the top five. It was a career-best finish for Armstrong.
“I think Alex was just fast today. He was fast here last year in May, in August,” Lundgaard said. “He’s fast wherever we go, really.”

THE MISTAKE

Power defended his team after the race for the cheating scandal that led to a series of penalties for Team Penske.

Defending Indy 500 champ Josef Newgarden was stripped of his season-opening win, Scott McLaughlin was stripped of his third-place finish at St. Petersburg, all three drivers were docked 10 points and fined $25,000 and the strategist and engineers for Newgarden and Power were suspended.

“When you’re a top team like Penske, people certainly like to blow everything up and make a big deal of it, although it was just a mistake,” said Power, who was cleared of wrongdoing. "It was actually a mistake. I know, I was testing when the software was put in.”

AIRING A COMPLAINT

Colton Herta fell from first to third in the points after qualifying 24th and finishing seventh. And while he was the biggest mover of the day, he wasn't happy with Andretti Global teammate Marcus Ericsson. Herta made those thoughts known on the broadcast's post-race interview.

“Your teammate’s leading the championship and you race him. ... I don’t know what you’re thinking,” Herta said

ENGINE TROUBLE

Arrow McLaren’s race day got off to a rough start when Pato O’Ward’s No. 5 Chevrolet suffered an engine problem during the morning warmup. The Mexican driver climbed out of the cockpit before the track’s safety team had to extinguish a fire in the car, and the crew made an engine change between the practice and the start of the race.

Then, just 17 laps into the race, O'Ward came into the pits. complaining about the power and a vibration. And he wasn't happier with the team's late race tire strategy, either. O'Ward finished 13th.

UP NEXT

The IndyCar Series holds its top event, the Indianapolis 500, May 26 on the Brickyard’s historic 2.5-mile oval. Qualifying begins next Saturday with the six-car pole shootout set for May 19. Bumping also will be held next Saturday with 34 cars vying to fill the traditional 33-car starting grid.