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IndyCar Indianapolis 500

Palou “struggling a little bit more” compared to last year’s Indy 500

The buildup to this Sunday’s 108th Running of the Indianapolis 500 has been challenging for Chip Ganassi Racing’s Alex Palou.

Palou stormed to pole for last year’s edition of “The Greatest Spectacle in Racing,” leading the charge for Chip Ganassi Racing (CGR) as all four cars qualified in the top 10. 

Although the 27-year-old Spaniard is still leading a five-car CGR contingent this year, it comes after qualifying 14th for Sunday’s 200-lap race. It was the first time since 2019 that CGR failed to put a car in the top 12. 

“Yeah, big difference, obviously, to last year,” said Palou, who led 36 laps en route to finishing fourth in the 2023 Indy 500. 

“We don't know. I mean, we don't know if that's what we lost or if we didn't really gain or if everybody improved a lot. Obviously we lost some speed if you look at the qualifying speeds we had last year and this year. We lost a little bit.

“On race trim, it doesn't feel as different. But yeah, it's for everybody in the team that we lost some speed.

“We thought we did all the work we had to do to try and be a little bit better than last year, but maybe with the small changes that IndyCar had with the gear boxes, the housing and all that stuff, that just didn't help us at all.”

Alex Palou, Chip Ganassi Racing Honda

Alex Palou, Chip Ganassi Racing Honda

Photo by: Michael L. Levitt / Motorsport Images

For Palou, the reigning and two-time IndyCar Series champion, the slightly encouraging part is the performance of this year’s car in a setup designed for the race still feels somewhat similar to last year’s, which featured a thunderous charge from the back of the field after a mid-race contact on pit road with Ed Carpenter Racing’s Rinus VeeKay

Last year we were super comfortable in the race, and I would say it was pretty easy to pass,” Palou said. 

“Otherwise dropping to 28th or something on lap 100. We were able to make passes and finish in the top 5.

“I think this year, we still are able to pass, but it's not as easy. You need to work a lot more. You need to wait a lot more. So yeah, we're struggling a little bit more. That doesn't mean that we're completely off, and especially at this race.

“But yeah, we have some work to do.”

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