By: Spencer Neff
On Friday,Chip Ganassi Racing’s Alex Palou lead the second practice and his group in the opening round of knockout qualifying before starting third Today, was the highest-starting driver to begin the GMR Grand Prix on alternate tires on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Road Course.
Utilizing the strategy, the 2021 NTT INDYCAR SERIES Champion became the fifth different winner in as many races to start 2023.
The driver of the No. 10 CGR Dallara-Honda led 52 of 85 laps on the 2.,439, 14-turn permanent road course to earn his fifth career win and first since the 2022 finale at Laguna Seca.
Palou, who has earned all of his victories on permanent road courses, had a previous best finish of third in May 2021 at this venue. Before the win today, Palou’s best finish of the season was a third-place effort at Texas Motor Speedway. He is also the only driver who’s completed every lap of the 17-race schedule to date.
Finishing 16.8006 seconds back, Pato O’Ward earned his third runner-up finish of 2023. He is now six points back of Palou. Last year’s runner-up at the Indianapolis 500 is still in search of his first win of 2023.
Taking his best finish with his new team, Alexander Rossi finished third and made it two Arrow McLaren Chevrolets on the podium.
Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing’s Christian Lundgaard finished fourth after starting on the pole. Felix Rosenqvist placed fifth, placing all three Arrow McLaren drivers in the Top Five .
Palou’s teammate Marcus Ericsson finished eighth and is now third in the standings. Slowed by just a three-lap caution, the average speed was 115.234 miles per hour.
The 12 lead changes ties the previous mark for most in a race on the IMS Road Course. Only the 2014 Inaugural race and the first race of the 2020 Harvest Grand Prix featured as many lead changes.
From the start, Lundgaard and Palou engaged in a fierce battle for the lead. By the end of the first lap, it would be the latter getting control of the top spot. Further back, the Dale Coyne Racing duo of David Malukas (with HMD Motorsports) and Sting Ray Robb (with Rick Ware Racing) spun out of the race after Robb squeezed Grosjean in Turn 7.
Following the Lap 6 restarts, the chaotic braking into Turns 1 and 2 continued. On Lap 7, Power spun after contact from Kirkwood but was able to continue. Kirkwood was assessed a penalty for the incident and dropped seven positions, slotting back to 24th.
By Lap 17, the conventional thinking of the race being dominated by the alternatetire seemingly went out the window. Palou was forced to pit and relinquish the lead to Lundgaard after switching to primary tires.
Four laps later, Lundgaard continued executing the conservative strategy and opted for a shorter run on the alternate tires. After his teammate Graham Rahal pitted off-sequence, the No. 45 held off Palou for 10 laps, when he opted for alternate tires. During that ensuing stint, Palou was able to swing the advantage back to his alternate tires.
On his last pit stop at Lap 61, the no. 10 would pit for the scuffed alternate tires. From there, Palou took off and would not be challenged the remainder of the way. With his name in the win column and on top of the points standings, Palou will look to be the third driver to sweep the month of May at IMS.
For the second time in as many seasons, the series heads to the Indianapolis 500 with all previous winners of the 500-mile race still in search of their first win
Teams and the Indianapolis Motor Speedway will now spend the next two days switching over to oval configuration On Tuesday, practice for the 107th Indianapolis 500 presented by Gainbridge will begin at 9:00 a.m. Et with a two-hour full-field practice.
RC Enerson is expected to conduct his Refresher program at 1:15 p.m. that afternoon. The Abel Motorsports driver will need to run 15 laps at 210-215 mph and 15 laps in excess of 215 mph as he looks to qualify for his first Indianapolis 500. Enerson’s on-track time is scheduled to end at 3:00. Despite not qualifying for the 2021 race in his only previous attempt, he will not be subject to Phase 1 of the Rookie Orientation.
From there, all 34 cars entered will be eligible until the scheduled 6:00 p.m. checkered flag. Practice on Wednesday through Friday are scheduled for 11:00 a.m.-6:00 p.m.. Qualifying will be held on Saturday and Sunday.
The 200-lap race on the 2.5-mile oval is set for May 28, with a scheduled green flag of 12:45 p.m. IndyCar1909 is on site at IMS and will have coverage throughout each on-track session and more. Look for extended coverage at IndyCar1909.com and our social media platforms.
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