Palou’s rivals resist comment, but approve of salary boosts

Graham Rahal and Josef Newgarden didn’t wish to address the McLaren vs Ganassi dispute over Alex Palou, but agreed the IndyCar driver market has been boosted.

Graham Rahal, Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing Honda

Newgarden, Rahal and Alexander Rossi were all unwilling to directly comment on Palou’s contract situation, which became public on Tuesday as both current employers Chip Ganassi Racing and also McLaren laid claim to the defending champion’s services in 2023.

Newgarden said it was, “So much fun… so entertaining,” Rahal said it was “a great Tuesday night” and Rossi said “It would be good for television… we should have a show. It would be cool.

When asked if they felt if the battle for Palou’s services suggested the drivers’ market value had been boosted by the burgeoning interest in IndyCar, Team Penske-Chevrolet’s two-time champion Newgarden responded, “I don't want to comment specifically on Zak or McLaren. I can comment on IndyCar.

“When I look at the series, I think there is a lot of strength. The marketplace is increasing. That's only positive. Obviously for us, we love to see that. But it's across the board: look at personnel as far as engineers, mechanics – everyone's at a premium right now.

“The car count is going up. They're talking about how are we going to fit everybody [in pitlane] next year because there's so much interest as far as teams and cars that want to commit. I think the overall health of the series in the marketplace is in a good spot. Some of what you're seeing is a result of that.

“I have no problems with that whatsoever. I think it's very healthy for us and our sport. Some of it's entertaining. I don't want to comment directly on the current events. But from a spectator standpoint or a fan standpoint, I think it's fun to watch. It's fascinating. To me, it gets me more involved and invested in what people are doing, what teams are doing.”

Rahal, who admitted in May that his ultimate destiny will be running the Rahal Letterman Lanigan team founded by his father, three-time IndyCar champion Bobby Rahal, concurred that “the marketplace is definitely getting better, driver salaries are increasing. As Josef said, pretty much everybody's salaries are increasing. What we speculate most about is the driver.

“I also think five, six, seven, eight years ago it was way too low. There were a bunch of guys in the series that weren't even getting paid. Basically their expenses to live and that's it. I think that it was just kind of out of line.

"I think still as a series, clearly we don't play as many games as baseball or whatever. When you see some of the salaries that are announced in those major sports, you could literally fund multiple racecars for years off what some of these guys are making.

“I still think in general… IndyCar racing is well below what it should be. But I do think it's moving north, which is good for a lot of the younger fellas that are coming along, for sure.”

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