Palou: A win always feels awesome, even if it’s your lucky day
Road America winner Alex Palou says that he’s thrilled by his latest triumph with Chip Ganassi Racing-Honda, even though it was inherited when dominant leader Josef Newgarden’s gearbox failed.
Palou, who also won the season-opener at Barber Motorsports Park, took the lead in today's ninth round at the final restart as Newgarden’s Penske-Chevrolet mis-shifted heading up the hill to Turn 1, and went into limp-home mode. But Palou says he believes he might have had something for Newgarden in the closing laps anyway.
“It was a really good weekend overall,” said Palou, who is now back in the lead of the championship, after Pato O’Ward could finish only ninth. “We started not super good, but we made some progress, and I feel like we always are really good when the weekend ends. Every run we were doing with the reds, with the blacks, we were getting even closer to Josef. So I was really happy.
“And then yeah, I don't know what happened to him, but we took the lead, and that was super exciting, and yeah, we had good power, we had good car setup, and yeah, just super happy.
“I think it was on the second or third restart that I tried on the inside in Turn 1. It didn't really work because I had somebody in front and I couldn't go deeper, and then in Turn 3 the same. I was trying to battle with him, but he had a bit more pace than we did at that point, but I was waiting for the last four or five laps.
“I had a bit less Push-to-Pass than him so that was going to make our race a bit more difficult to battle, but I knew we had a good car. I knew we were a bit faster than him on the straights, so our team did an amazing job and at the end we took it before Turn 1. I didn't really look at my mirror, I just went for the outside. It was quite close. Even if he was a bit slower, I was super close so I had to just turn in quite aggressively, and then I just ran. I didn't know if my tires were good enough to keep the lead. It was only two laps, but those two laps when you're in the lead, they can take forever.
“A win is a win, and it always feels awesome even if it's your lucky day or just because you have really good pace…
“Today we started struggling compared to Josef, so he was super fast. He was flying. But by the end I was able to be there with him, so I think we had the faster car at the end. I knew that we had a bit better straight line speed. I think HPD did an amazing job for this weekend, and the car was good. I was comfortable, I just had a bit less Push-to-Pass than him, and I couldn't really overuse my Push-to-Pass, so I was saving it for the end.”
Palou said that inexperience is what meant he took a little longer to find the sweet spot of his car at Road America, but that he was able to work off the data from last year, when Ganassi won both races in the double-header at this 4.014-mile course.
“I think you can see that our performance during weekends, it always comes more at the race, just because we have more time to develop the car and for me to get used to,” he explained. “I'm not a rookie anymore, but I'm still kind of a rookie.
“The good thing is that Chip Ganassi won two races here last year. I had the best data I could have with the onboard, so we've been working a lot with the data from last year.”
Describing the relative strengths and weaknesses of his Ganassi-Honda compared with the Penske-Chevrolet ahead, Palou said: “I thought during the whole race we were quite strong on the straights. We have a really old engine, but HPD did an amazing job of getting that old engine running so fast because we were super strong on all the straights.
“I knew I could pass him either in Turn 1 or before Turn 12. I thought that was my chance also because it's a really long straight and I could get a big tow. But I don't think without the issue he had I would have overtaken him in Turn 1 at that moment.
“We were super strong on straight line and braking, but he was super strong in traction, so it was like – that's two different cars and two different drivers, right? That's what you get.
“But I thought we were in a stronger position to fight, just because when you can attack the braking and you arrive to the braking with higher speed, you're going to have a better chance of [passing].”
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