Palou admits he’s in the greatest phase of his career

#10: Alex Palou, Chip Ganassi Racing Honda, podium
#10: Alex Palou, Chip Ganassi Racing Honda, podium

IndyCar’s runaway points leader Alex Palou says that his current purple patch is the best of his racing career.

The Chip Ganassi Racing-Honda driver scored three wins in his title-winning 2021 campaign, yet today at Mid-Ohio, the ninth round of the 2023 season, he scored his third consecutive win and his fourth in just the last five races. He has not finished outside the top five since an eighth place in the season opener at St. Petersburg.

Asked if he had ever enjoyed such a period in his career, the 26-year-old Spaniard said, “Not at all. No, absolutely not. Obviously in go-karts I had good couple of races, but I don’t think I had three big wins in a row or in the last five and always being up there.

“So, no, it’s the best moment of my career so far.”

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Palou ran fourth in the opening phase of today’s Honda Indy 200, but having started on primary Firestones, he was ready to pounce when Kyle Kirkwood’s alternate tires started fading, and he grabbed third. He then outlasted Colton Herta and Graham Rahal on their alternates, slammed in fast laps as they pitted, and was comfortably ahead of them when he emerged from his first pit stops.

“We knew that we had the pace, but we needed clean air,” he said. “Obviously it’s tough at Mid-Ohio to follow cars — well, to overtake cars, I would say. That’s why we went for the primaries at the beginning, which we thought was probably a bit risky, but if we were able to cross the first lap in position, we were going to be good for our strategy.

“So, yeah, made it work. We saved a little bit of fuel. Waited until the No. 27 [Kirkwood] struggled a little bit on tires. We were able to pass and then just run a bit longer than Colton and Rahal to get the lead.

“Yeah, it was fun. The car was really fast, obviously. It was great to be able to do everything that we planned, and all the pit stops and everything was fine.”

Although he said “we can keep it going because I know we have good cars and a great team,” Palou remained wary of the next races, on the streets of Toronto and the doubleheader on the Iowa short oval.

“Toronto, it’s a street course, and everything can happen there,” he said. “Same for Iowa. It’s always a crazy race, and it’s a doubleheader. So if you have a bad day, you’re probably going to have two bad days.

“Yeah, hopefully it’s going to be OK. I know Toronto was really good for us last year. If I remember correctly, Scott won, so we have a really good car. Hopefully we can still have a clean race there.

“Then Iowa, we’ll see. But, yeah, it would be nice if we’re preparing for another great result there, and we suddenly get the great result.”

Describing the big factors in his progress in 2023, Palou said: “I would say we got a lot better in qualifying than in the last two years. We’ve been able to get more speed from the car and get myself more comfortable. That helps getting better strategies during the races.

“And I would say reading the races. I’m learning a lot. I’ve been learning a lot from Scott, from the team for what I need for my races. So far it’s working. So hopefully we can keep on learning and keep getting some good results.”

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