By David Morgan, Associate Editor
Even a mid-pack starting position and a broken front wing couldn’t keep Alex Palou down Sunday in Toronto as he brought home a second-place finish.
The current NTT IndyCar Series points leader started the 85-lap Honda Indy Toronto in 15th place after a stumble in the rain in qualifying a day ago, but as the race played out, he was back to his old tricks.
It seemed as if the driver of the No. 10 Chip Ganassi Racing Honda was bound for another finish near the front of the field before getting a piece of an incident between Kyle Kirkwood and Helio Castroneves in Turn 11 on Lap 45 that threatened to derail his day.
The contact to the right-front wing wasn’t enough to keep the vehicle from being drivable, but would present additional challenges for Palou around the 11-turn, 1.786-mile street course.
“I was behind the 27. I know he was the leader on my strategy — on our strategy, let’s say. I will speak to at that time,” Palou explained of how the damage occurred.
“I went on the inside because they didn’t go when it was green. Everybody started going, and I didn’t want to get overtaken. I went on the inside. He tried to be on the outside, and I think I got checked up, braked, and the 27 spun around the 60, or the 0-6.
“Then I just tried to avoid the car, but he hit me, and I hit the wall. I don’t know how, but the engine was still running, and we were able to drive off only losing a couple of spots.”
As the laps wound down, the damage to the front wing only got worse, but strategy allowed him to run solidly in the top-five, eventually climbing as high as second on lap 61, where he would stay for the remainder of the race after eventual race winner Christian Lundgaard passed him to take over the race lead.
Palou explained that from then on he had to do his best job of damage mitigation to be able to make the wing last through the finish, avoiding some of the bumpier sections of the track to keep from damaging it more.
By the time the car crossed the finish line, only the vinyl covering on the nose was keeping the wing in place.
“I could feel it dragging on turn two, that it was flat out, and you are turning right. I could feel it dragging. I was, like, Oh, man, that’s not good,” Palou said.
“Then also on the curve in turn five and in turn eight, but I didn’t think it was that bad. I could feel that it was increasing. And I was, like, Oh, man.
“Barry told me, Ten laps to go, and I thought, honestly, that it was not going to — we were not going to end the race with that nose.
“Yeah, I was pretty surprised. I think it was only the vinyl, like, the stickers that were holding it because there’s nothing else there. So, yeah, pretty impressive.”
Despite all of the challenges of the day north of the border, Palou still managed to increase his points lead to 117 over six-time series champion Scott Dixon with seven races remaining in the 2023 season.
Next up is the doubleheader at Iowa Speedway, where Palou finished sixth and 13th, respectively, a year ago.