Photo: Chris Jones/Penske Entertainment

Alex Palou Stays in Championship Form, Wins at Road America

By David Morgan, Associate Editor

ELKHART LAKE, Wis. – Alex Palou has been on a roll as of late and kept the momentum going at Road America by decisively winning Sunday’s running of the Sonsio Grand Prix.

The driver of the No. 10 Chip Ganassi Racing Honda started the weekend with some hurdles to overcome following a crash in practice, but rebounded to a third-place starting position heading into the race, where he stayed in the hunt all day and made his move late to take the win and increase his points lead to 74 points over teammate Marcus Ericsson.

“It wasn’t [easy],” Palou said of his third win in the last four races “It was great to start up there saving a bit of fuel at the beginning. I think everybody was on the same situation. Then everything started moving a lot with those cushions. Did a couple of mistakes there with Josef. Lost a position there.

“But, yeah, we kept on pushing. Great pit stops. Fighted for the win at the end. Yeah, the speed that we had this weekend was huge and gave us the opportunity to win today.”

Reigning Indy 500 champion Josef Newgarden finished the race in second-place, some 4.5 seconds in arears of Palou, with Pato O’Ward rounding out the podium finishers.

Scott Dixon just missed out on a podium finish in fourth-place, having overcome a massive amount of adversity to start the weekend, charging from 23rd place on the starting grid after a crash in practice with Will Power, which relegated him to a back-up car to start the day.

“Pretty damn impressive drive for Scott Dixon and the PNC car, no question,” team owner Chip Ganassi said afterwards.

For most of the day, it seemed as if it was Colton Herta’s race to lose, with the polesitter leading 33 laps – the most of anyone in the field – but when it came down to make or break time in the waning stages of the race, it was a pit call that would end up dooming his day.

Herta made his final pit stop on lap 40, a lap prior to Palou, which brought fuel mileage into play for the driver of the No. 26 Andretti Autosport Honda given the 4.048-mile track length at Road America. As the laps wound down, he would have to go into fuel save mode to be able to make it to the finish.

With seven laps to go, Palou swept around Herta into Turn 1 and walked away with the lead, while Herta fell back through the top-five as the laps clicked away, leaving him wondering what might have been if the strategy call went his way instead of Palou’s way.

“It was unclear to me how the race was going to play out at that point. It was hard to say what was going to happen with fuel numbers,” Herta said. “I knew it was about 15 laps to go and that’s a pretty reasonable fuel number, but it ended up being quite a bit more.

“It’s frustrating. We had the best car and we were cruising the whole time. Like, I had so much more in it and we never really got to show it because we were always saving fuel, trying to go that lap later. It’s a killer. We still got a fifth out of it, which is nice. Not what we want though. For that reason, it’s pretty frustrating.”

Sixth-place went to Marcus Ericsson, followed by Christian Lundgaard, Scott McLaughlin, Kyle Kirkwood, and Alexander Rossi rounding out the top-10 finishers.

The race was slowed four times for off-track excursions, starting with Kyle Kirkwood on lap 1, as well as fellow Andretti Autosport driver Romain Grosjean on lap 13. Jack Harvey went off course on lap 16 and the final caution went to David Malukas on lap 25.

The NTT IndyCar Series will have a two-week break before next heading to Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course for the Honda Indy 200 at 1:30 pm ET on NBC.

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David Morgan is the Associate Editor for Motorsports Tribune. A 2008 graduate from the University of Mississippi, David has followed NASCAR since the early 90’s and became hooked at an early age after attending his first race at Talladega Superspeedway in 1993. He has traveled across the country since 2012 to cover some of the most prestigious events both IndyCar and NASCAR have to offer, with an aim to only expand on that in the near future.