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IndyCar Indy 500

Reigning IndyCar champion Palou “not that close” to being a complete driver

Two-time and reigning IndyCar Series champion Alex Palou is inching toward becoming the most complete version of himself out on the racetrack.

Alex Palou, Chip Ganassi Racing

It is a bit surprising to have a driver that rolled to a dominating 2023 campaign featuring five wins, 10 podiums, two poles – no finish lower than eighth – across 17 rounds and locked up the title with a race to spare profess they are still lacking.

However, that is exactly how Palou examines his own status, acknowledging the biggest remaining hurdle are ovals.

The Spaniard won pole in the 107th Running of the Indianapolis 500 and appeared poised to challenge for the win, but was victim to a mid-race incident after Rinus VeeKay spun into him on pit road. Despite a furious charge, Palou was only able to push his Chip Ganassi Racing Honda up to fourth when the checkered flag fell. A pair of third-place finishes (Texas, Iowa 2) represented his best on ovals for the season.

“I need to win a oval race,” said Palou, who finished runner-up in the 2021 Indy 500. “It's easy, man. It's simple to know what we can improve.

“My oval skills, I would say they improved a lot. I got two podiums this year. P4 here at IMS [Indianapolis Motor Speedway]. We got to pole here. But still, we haven't won. When we are at the race, we are not fighting for the win.

“We get to the podium and it's like a win for us. So, I need to get there.”

Alex Palou, Chip Ganassi Racing Honda

Alex Palou, Chip Ganassi Racing Honda

Photo by: Jake Galstad / Motorsport Images

The 26-year-old provided his own assessment the gap separating him from the goal of being a complete driver.

“It's not super far, but it's far enough that it's painful,” Palou said. “Once I finished my Gateway race [in seventh], I was like, 'Man, I wish I could just go again and do it again.'

“I learned so much. Every race I finish, I learn a lot. But I'm not that close. I'm not as close as I would like to be.”

Although Palou yearns for an oval victory, it isn’t such a desperation he would trade either of his championships for glory in the Indianapolis 500.

“No, absolutely not,” he said. “Yes, that's what I will put most of my effort to get, but I would never trade a championship for the Indy 500. I love the Indy 500. I know how special it is for everybody. It's super special for me as well, but I think it's only a one-off race.

“I've been around like the top three or four cars or drivers or teams, in general, to win the race and we didn't because of this or that. Some others have just been lucky on the last stint of the race.

"I know the importance of it. I want to win it, but I would not trade a full year of being the best for just the one day of being the best.”

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