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Palou to suffer six-place grid penalty at Detroit

NTT IndyCar Series points leader Alex Palou will start six places behind wherever he qualifies for the first of the Detroit Grand Prix races this weekend.

The #10 Chip Ganassi Racing driver is the first driver to fall victim to the rule, introduced in 2020, whereby an ‘early’ engine change incurs a six-place grid penalty on road/street courses and a nine-place penalty on ovals.

Palou’s car required a new Honda engine after Carb Day’s final practice for the Indianapolis 500, by which time all race engines for the Indy 500 have been fitted, when HPD spotted an unspecified problem, according to a spokesperson.

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The Spaniard went on to fight a great duel for the win with Helio Castroneves, and his runner-up finish – at the series’ only double-points race – leaves him leading the championship fight by 36 points, with six rounds down and 10 to go.

But Palou will therefore cede six places for Saturday’s first of the 70-lap races around the 2.35-mile Belle Isle track.

“That's going to make our stuff really hard, but we'll try and have some clean and good strategies, and we'll be up there by the end of the race,” he said.

Although this is Palou’s second year in IndyCar, this will be his first trip to Detroit, since last year’s event was canceled as a result of the pandemic. There is also just one 75-minute practice before qualifying for the first race, but he said he goes in with a very positive mindset.

“The track looks awesome, really bumpy,” he said, “but yeah, I think the layout is super nice as a street course. I'm looking forward. I think it's super good for me that there's a double race just so I know I have a second chance on Sunday…The Chip Ganassi Racing team had some good results in '19 and '18, so I'm looking forward to it.

“The team had really good results the past years, so I know that Scott is going to be fast, Marcus got his first podium there in '19, so he's going to be really quick, and yeah, I'll be able to learn from all of them and hopefully we can be up there.”

He continued: “I've never been there. It's a street course. It's also more difficult to get up to speed. But it's all right. It is what it is. It's what we have. We have one hour and 15 of practice so we'll try and make the most of it, try to run as much as possible, and what gives me a bit of confidence is that at the Indy road course we missed Free Practice 1 because we had an issue and we were able to be up there in qualifying. So I think we should be OK at Detroit, just need to keep focused, look at what my teammates are doing and try and follow them.

“I'm looking forward to the track. Everybody says it's super challenging with all the bumps. I have to say, it's really fast for being a street course, especially the last two corners and the first two. I think they are super challenging…

“I've been preparing a lot on the sim – just for myself, not setup-related. I've been doing it at home, just because it's super important on a street course to really know the bumps, to really get some references. And then aside, as well, we've been working with the team doing the setup stuff so we don't have to work that much during the race weekend.

“During free practice it's going to be tough. I'm going to have to be able to get up to speed really quick, and I just need to focus on everything. I need to focus on all the bumps. I need to see how the car rides the bumps. That's super important. And then braking zones. I think it's super important on street courses to really nail and attack the braking zones.

“Hopefully we are able to do that soon enough so we can start developing our car during free practice.”

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