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IndyCar Iowa II

Palou “not comfortable” with IndyCar points lead after Newgarden wins

IndyCar Series points dominator Alex Palou says he’s glad that the Iowa Speedway double-header is behind him after he ‘minimized the damage’ of Josef Newgarden’s win double.

Alex Palou, Chip Ganassi Racing Honda

Chip Ganassi Racing star Palou saw Team Penske’s oval ace Newgarden reduce his points lead reduce from 117 to 80 after his closest rival scored a brace of victories on the 7/8-mile short track, the type of venue that the Spaniard admits is his weakest suit.

Although he finished a lapped eighth on Saturday, Palou rebounded on Sunday to salvage a podium finish. When asked by NBC what he’d said to Palou in the immediate aftermath of the race, weekend dominator Newgarden replied: “I told him that you weren’t supposed to finish there!”

“We knew it was going to be a tough weekend,” admitted Palou, whose result on Saturday matches his worst finish of the season. “I'm glad that I'm going home tonight and there's not another race [here] tomorrow because, yeah, I improved, but the steps I made, they are not up to closing the gap to [Penske’s Will] Power and Josef. I'm glad it's over.”

Palou is now five races away from clinching his second IndyCar title, with three road courses, one street track and another oval remaining.

“I'm glad we have those points in the bag, but I'm not comfortable, honestly,” he admitted. “I will be comfortable if we won the championship already.

“We know in IndyCar, with the big swings, you can make a lot in only one weekend by winning or having a bad race, so you can never give up. I'm looking forward to the next couple of races, which we know that we have a good car for, and I have a lot of confidence.

“I hope that before getting to Gateway [the final oval race], it's not as bad as Iowa in the past, but it's not been great. I think I feel a bit more comfortable there, and also we’ll have a bit more performance from the car.

“But this guy [Newgarden], I count him on winning there, so I need to do the work in Nashville and Indy Road Course before getting there.”

Palou’s Chip Ganassi Racing team had tested at Iowa a couple of weeks ago, in an effort to increase its pace there as the twin-race format effectively offered a double points opportunity across the weekend.

Although his finishing position in Saturday’s race was way worse, Palou said his drive to third on Sunday was far harder.

“We thought it was going to be maybe a little bit less tough after we tested here, and honestly [on Saturday] we had a lot of pace,” he said. “Not like Penske pace, but like second series pace, and that was great. We just didn't really have that final lap that you need to finish fourth or fifth, and we finished eighth.

“[Sunday] was the opposite – we had no pace. I was so loose, I was struggling to overtake. I was struggling to keep the tires under the deck, and the team just put me in the position [with good strategy calls around the three cautions].

“I expected Josef to win. We were counting on that, and it was up to us to try and minimize the damage. So, 100%, I didn't expect to be on the podium.”

Palou pulled off a stunning late charge on Sunday, following a late-race caution, in the three-lap sprint to the finish that netted his third place.

“That was cool,” he smiled. “I knew that we were the last car on the lead lap, so I could risk it a little bit more. If I had an issue with something, I was not going to lose a position.

“So went on the outside. Had a good restart. Went on the outside of [Penske’s Scott] McLaughlin, and I think [Arrow McLaren’s Felix] Rosenqvist was battling with Power, and I just got to the inside of him into Turn 3. It was a pretty good restart.”

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