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Herta, Rahal puzzled by O’Ward’s restart pace, Palou less so

Both Colton Herta and Graham Rahal expressed surprise at how easily Detroit Race 2 winner O’Ward was able to pass them, but Alex Palou says he and the Ganassi team believe they’ve figured it out.

Alex Palou, Chip Ganassi Racing Honda, Patricio O'Ward, Arrow McLaren SP Chevrolet

Barry Cantrell / Motorsport Images

O’Ward’s Arrow McLaren SP-Chevrolet surged forward on the last two restarts, passing Scott Dixon, Graham Rahal, Palou, Herta and eventually longtime leader Josef Newgarden to claim an impressive victory.

Herta, who lost third to Palou after trying to retaliate on O’Ward, and making a slight error at Turn 3 said afterward: “It was pretty disappointing. I had a fast car, I just didn’t get it done at the end there unfortunately.

“We could definitely find some stuff to make the car a little better on restarts. Whatever Pato and the Schmidt guys have is really good. We need to work up towards that.

“The racecar was fantastic and we were so fast, I would imagine we were one of, or the fastest car on track at most of the times. It felt wonderful. Full credit to the team, the stops were amazing and the strategy was perfect. It put us in the best position to win with Newgarden on reds at the end, but unfortunately I didn’t get it done.”

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Rahal added: “Pato did a wonderful job – but the Arrow McLaren Schmidt cars are always just so fast on restarts. We just have to figure out how they’re generating this tire temperature when the rest of us seem to not. It’s a massive difference as everyone can see.”

Palou, who finished third, believes that the Arrow McLaren SP is set up to turn the tires on rapidly, but also pays a price.

“I think it's basically what we've been seeing all year, that they were able to switch the tires on in one lap, and that's why they get so many poles – well, he’s got two, and he's always up there on qualifying," he said.

“But that's also why he had to do an extra [tire] stop in Indy road course, in St. Pete. There's a compromise, right?

“It worked really good this weekend, and we need to find that compromise, but we think we know what it is now. Not before, but now. So we're going to try, and if we can get that right, it's going to be really fun.”

But Palou also paid tribute to O’Ward’s approach to racing.

He added: “Yeah, I think he's really aggressive but really a good aggressiveness. He's not crazy. He doesn't dive bomb from like 50 meters away, so he's really good.

“You know when he's behind and he has a better car that he's going to overtake you. I think we've been really good on overtaking, as well. But the thing is if there's a driver that can switch on the tires because of driving skills or because of the setup, then that driver looks outstanding compared to all others.

“I think he overtook like six cars in two laps – that's crazy! We were all fighting against the walls, not trying to spin or to crash and he was like running fast times.”

O'Ward himself explained his cold-tire pace simply as, "Fast hands."

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