By Luis Torres, Staff Writer
INDIANAPOLIS – “I tried everything. It hurts. But to be honest, it’s good to lose against probably one of the best. Well, it’s one of the best, probably the best. Yeah, it’s Helio.”
Alex Palou indeed tried everything he could to get and fend off Helio Castroneves. But when Castroneves made the race-winning pass with two to go, Palou saw the Indy dream evaporate. As Castroneves brought home his fourth Indianapolis 500 victory, Palou wound up a crushing runner-up.
“I didn’t expect that a second place would hurt that much until I crossed the finish line,” said Palou.
The Spaniard felt he had the best car out of the 33-car grid. It was evident when the race came down to its final green flag run. While guys such as Scott Dixon, Felix Rosenqvist and Takuma Sato were out front, the show was further back.
Palou and Castroneves swapped the provisional top spot back-and-forth and the crowd ate it up. Once those the trio were out of the equation, it was game on.
Palou would get by Castroneves on Lap 196 and even began pulling away on the backstretch. Two laps later, Castroneves did the same thing and there was no looking back.
“I mean because as soon as Helio was passing me, I was able to get him back before turn three or even in turn one. I was able just to manage when I wanted to pass him,” Palou explained.
“But the thing is that after three, four laps, he was behind me, he was able to pass me and I couldn’t really do anything because it was overtaking me all the car.
“When he passed me, I was like, Oh, maybe that’s going to be bad for me just because we were reaching the traffic,” Palou continued. “As soon as you’re on traffic, you’re not P2 any more, you’re like P8. When you are P8 on a pack, it was not easy to pass today.
“I still tried, fight for it, turn three, turn four. It was not enough. For sure the traffic made the things a bit more difficult today. That’s part of racing. At some other areas, some other parts of the race the traffic was helping me. This time Helio was a bit luckier at the end. Yeah, he deserve it.”
Big picture in a few days is the quest for the Astor Cup. Points leader Scott Dixon had a dismal 17th place finish after running out of fuel earlier in the race. As a result, Palou will enter the Belle Isle doubleheader (June 11-12) as the championship leader.
In spite of leading Dixon by 36 points, it was the least of his concerns.
“I think when you start thinking about the championship, if you’re not executing on track, there’s no point. If you are executing on track, it makes no point either,” Palou’s viewpoint on the championship.
“We just try to make session by session as we’ve been doing. If we keep doing what we’ve been doing everywhere, I think we’ll be able to fight until the end for this championship.
“For sure it’s good to get a little bit of gap now after the 500. I think we’ve been able to get a lot of points in our, let’s say, weaker places like Texas and here. Super proud about that. Cannot wait to go to my area, let’s say. I’m more comfortable there. Yeah, super happy. We’ll keep on fighting.”