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IndyCar Long Beach

Palou: “We gave everything we had” at Long Beach

Defending IndyCar Series champion Alex Palou believes his Chip Ganassi Racing-Honda team’s strategy couldn’t be faulted, despite leading and ultimately finishing third.

Alex Palou, Chip Ganassi Racing Honda pit

After running third in the opening stint, Palou took the lead after Ganassi pitted him two laps earlier than his chief rivals ahead, Colton Herta of Andretti Autosport and Josef Newgarden of Team Penske, who went on to win.

Palou then fended off the pair who were dueling with each other through the middle stint, but after also requiring to make his second stop early, as he braked for Turn 1 he saw Newgarden emerging from his stop just ahead. The Ganassi driver tried to take advantage of his warmer tires and looked down the inside Turn 4 and around the outside at Turn 5, but could not find a way through.

Once Newgarden had his tires up to temperature, Palou had to keep his eyes on his mirrors, especially when Ericsson crashed out, allowing Romain Grosjean, who was running Firestone’s alternate tires on this final stint, onto his tail. Into Turn 1 on Lap 69, Palou kept him at bay, but at the same spot the following lap, the Frenchman got through.

“We had to be aggressive with the strategy to try and beat Newgarden and Colton there in the first stop,” said Palou who is third in the championship, just 15 points behind new leader Newgarden. “The guys did an amazing strategy, amazing stop, and we came out in P1.

“Then we were leading for some laps, but I could see that we were lacking a bit of speed compared to Josef. We had to pit because we pitted two laps earlier, so we had not a lot of fuel, and he got us. It was a good battle with him on track, as well. I think it was on the limit, but we tried, both of us. He won today.

And then on the restart with Romain, I couldn't really do much. I was really bad out of the hairpin and he was really good all the race and also with red tires, so yeah, not much I could have done. But it was a good day for the #10 car.”

Regarding his attempts to pass, Newgarden, Palou said: “I thought I could have got him back into Turn 4. It's not a place where you can overtake, but I had to go for it because otherwise I knew that he would get the tires up to temperature. So I tried. I saw it was really close, and I didn't make it.

“It was hard but clean racing – I think from his side, as well. He gave me enough room that I could try it but not that I could make it happen…

“I think we gave everything we had. We were lacking a bit of speed out of the hairpin, and that made it really difficult to try and defend and also to try and attack him.”

Palou sounded puzzled that others had not immediately covered the #10 team’s strategy regarding the first pitstop, as he believes that’s what allowed him to vault from third to first.

“Normally an undercut in IndyCar doesn't work,” says Palou who scored three wins last year on his way to the title. “If it's a normal undercut – there's no traffic or yellow or anything – it doesn't work just because you have to do a lap, warm up your tires and then start getting up to speed. Especially us, we've been struggling a lot with that.

“We did that, I just listened, I went for it. The guys did an amazing pit stop, and nobody covered that, so they let us run while they were fighting on track, and we came out on P1, so yeah, it was amazing.

“That kind of made our race a little bit harder at the end, having to pit two laps earlier for the second stop, but anyway, I think it was a good try. We have to be like that: We have to try stuff like that – more aggressive. Yeah, it was not enough today, but hopefully it's enough for Barber.”

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