By Luis Torres, Staff Writer
LONG BEACH, Calif. – NTT IndyCar Series championship leader Alex Palou will have some work to do for Sunday’s Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach.
He not only failed to make the Firestone Fast Six, but his 10th starting position was also the worst among the title contenders. Josef Newgarden ended up winning the NTT P1 Pole Award, cutting his gap on Palou to 47 points. Pato O’Ward, who also missed the Fast Six, will start two spots ahead of the Spaniard in eighth.
During Round 1, Group 1 qualifying, Palou brushed the Turn 4 wall but kept going without serious consequences.
However, the key factor into Palou’s shortcoming was a result of a late local yellow in Round 2 qualifying. Will Power’s No. 12 Verizon 5G Chevrolet, who already had an incident with Jack Harvey earlier in qualifying, had gearing issue and wound up stranded on the course.
Under the rulebook, if a driver doesn’t slow down when the course is under caution, they’ll be admonished. More so if their fastest lap took place in that time period.
INDYCAR Race Control took over 10 minutes to sort things out, but Palou didn’t make the Fast Six. All in spite of being told to stay in his No. 10 NTT Data Honda after the session.
“I knew we were 10th and that there was only four cars or three cars in front of us that passed the yellow. Even if they reviewed everything, we were not going to make it,” Palou explained.
“You have to be there ready just in case, right? You never know. It was a bit confusing. I think we had lots of those moments this year. That’s how it goes.”
Despite not starting in the first three rows, Palou was rather okay about his situation.
“We know we have a good race car. We’ll try and overtake some good cars tomorrow and just focus on ourselves,” said Palou. “Do the best we can tomorrow and if we do good, we’ll get that championship home. Otherwise, we cannot really focus on what the other cars are doing.”
All Palou has to do in the 85-lap contest is finish 12th or better and the Astor Cup will be his. Live coverage of Sunday’s finale begins at 3:00 p.m. ET on NBC. Alexander Rossi is the defending race winner.