Palou Wins His Second IndyCar Series Race At Road America

Alex Palou races to victory at Road America. [John Wiedemann Photo]

Alex Palou races to victory at Road America. [John Wiedemann Photo]

by Paul Gohde

“It wasn’t meant to be… again.”

For two races in a row, a Team Penske driver, leading a race late, ran into trouble that robbed each driver of a win. Last time it was Will Power at Detroit and now it was teammate Josef Newgarden’s turn as a gear shifting problem on a restart with two laps remaining dropped the likely Road America winner to a 21st-place finish and gave the Rev Group Grand Prix win to challenger Alex Palou.

After a race where pushing, shoving and tire strategy took center stage, the finish was finally settled when a caution, with four laps remaining, set the stage for an unexpected outcome on the ensuing restart. “It’s frustrating. I’m not sure what happened; something on the drivetrain,” noted a somewhat composed Newgarden. “As soon as I got it into 5th gear, it wouldn’t go into sixth.”

But a somewhat surprised Palou, who had been slowly making up ground during the final stages, suddenly saw the race coming his way. “We were getting close to Josef and then I saw he was having trouble as we got closer to Turn one. I had been trying to get to him but thought we would wait for the last 4-5 laps,” the now two-race winner explained. “Today we started to struggle compared to Josef. I’m happy to know I have the tools to win. I’m not a rookie anymore, but I’m still working.”

The main body of the race saw driver after driver go wheel-to wheel with competitors, first being the victim and later the aggressor. One of those was F1 newcomer Romain Grosjean. “Contact seems the way to go in IndyCar”, noted the native of Switzerland who was often known in F1 as that aggressor. “You have to muscle around on every lap here. You have to get used to it. But it was cool. This is a great track.” Grosjean fought his way to a fifth-place finish despite being slowed by those numerous moments of contact with others.

Another recipient of Newgarden’s troubles was runner up Colton Herta who admitted that his Andretti Autosport Honda racer just wasn’t up to par today. “We were down a little bit on everything, so it feels nice to get a podium,” he smiled. “It was one of those days we didn’t have the pace, but it was good enough for a top five.”

Will Power understands how his Team Penske partner feels after his own car wouldn’t refire after a red flag while leading at late in the race at Detroit last week. “This whole weekend was better for us. I know how Josef feels after Detroit. I’m very pleased with our qualifying (fourth) and the race (third) and being on the podium,” he explained. “I love winning and am upset when we’re not.”

Scott Dixon, the 2020 series’ champion, started 13th after running over something while navigating the Road America carousel in Saturday qualifying. “After starting back farther we had good pace. This was a good recovery for us in points,” Dixon said, “but it was unlucky for Josef.”

Jimmie Johnson caused one of the four caution periods when he spun in Turn 7 early in the race but returned to finish 22nd and said he’s still learning each of the IndyCar circuits.

Kevin Magnussen, Grosjean’s partner for several years at Haas F1, also went off course on lap 33, finishing 22 laps down.

Newgarden led for 32 of the 55-lap grind while Palou was at the front for just five, including the final two. But it only matters who led lap 55 and Newgarden sadly watched Palou cruise to the win, knowing it could/should have been him. Power said he gets upset when he doesn’t win. Imagine how Newgarden feels.

Notes: Road America personnel described today’s turnout as one of the largest for an IndyCar event…Radar showed rain moving toward the track later in the race, but it held off until an hour after the checkered flag…Romain Grosjean is certainly a fan favorite as he posed for selfies with hundreds of fans who gathered at his hauler prior to the race…Newgarden “almost” ended the winless streak of Team Penske, but that streak will have to wait another week to be ended…In his post-race press conference, winner Palou said that it was all he ever wanted as a child was to be a race driver, even coming from a small village in Spain… Most teams
started the race on the softer compound “red” tires and changed after just 12 laps to the harder “blacks” for the remainder.

Indy Lights: Race 1-In a race dominated by Indy Lights rookies, Kyle Kirkwood came from his fourth place starting spot to win Race1 of the Indy Lights Cooper Tires GP at Road America by 11.066 seconds Saturday. Kirkwood, one of 10 rookies in the 13-car field, battled with early leader Toby Sowery who started fifth and led two laps before he passed Sowery and Linus Lundqvist to assume a lead that he held until the checkered flag. Another rookie, Benjamin Pederson, came through the field from 10th to finish second, with veteran Robert Megennis third. Kirkwood averaged 122.086 mph over the 20-lap chase.

Race 2- David Malukas rebounded from his mid-pack finish in Saturday’s Indy Lights Race 1, to win Sunday’s Race 2 over Robert Megennis who ran second yesterday. Malukas, who started second, led all 20 laps, averaging a slow 115.900 mph, winning by 4.588 sec. Pole-winner Danial Frost was third.

REV Group Grand Prix Race Results
ELKHART LAKE, Wis. – Results Sunday of the REV Group Grand Prix NTT INDYCAR SERIES event on the 4.014-mile Road America, with order of finish, starting position in parentheses, driver, chassis-engine, laps completed and reason out (if any):
1. (5) Alex Palou, Honda, 55, Running
2. (2) Colton Herta, Honda, 55, Running
3. (4) Will Power, Chevrolet, 55, Running
4. (13) Scott Dixon, Honda, 55, Running
5. (7) Romain Grosjean, Honda, 55, Running
6. (18) Marcus Ericsson, Honda, 55, Running
7. (9) Alexander Rossi, Honda, 55, Running
8. (20) Takuma Sato, Honda, 55, Running
9. (10) Pato O’Ward, Chevrolet, 55, Running
10. (22) Max Chilton, Chevrolet, 55, Running
11. (14) Graham Rahal, Honda, 55, Running
12. (16) Oliver Askew, Chevrolet, 55, Running
13. (8) Ryan Hunter-Reay, Honda, 55, Running
14. (17) Scott McLaughlin, Chevrolet, 55, Running
15. (19) James Hinchcliffe, Honda, 55, Running
16. (11) Sebastien Bourdais, Chevrolet, 55, Running
17. (3) Jack Harvey, Honda, 55, Running
18. (6) Simon Pagenaud, Chevrolet, 55, Running
19. (25) Cody Ware, Honda, 55, Running
20. (15) Conor Daly, Chevrolet, 55, Running
21. (1) Josef Newgarden, Chevrolet, 55, Running
22. (23) Jimmie Johnson, Honda, 54, Running
23. (12) Ed Jones, Honda, 50, Off Course
24. (21) Kevin Magnussen, Chevrolet, 33, Off Course
25. (24) Dalton Kellett, Chevrolet, 19, Mechanical

Race Statistics
Winner’s average speed: 119.424 mph
Time of Race: 1:50:55.0534
Margin of victory: 1.9106 seconds
Cautions: 4 for 7 laps
Lead changes: 11 among 7 drivers

Lap Leaders:
Newgarden 1 – 13
Palou 14
Dixon 15
Newgarden 16 – 24
Magnussen 25 – 30
Sato 31 – 32
Newgarden 33 – 39
Palou 40 – 41
Chilton 42 – 48
Askew 49 – 50
Newgarden 51 – 53
Palou 54 – 55

NTT INDYCAR SERIES point standings: Palou 349, O’Ward 321, Dixon 296, Newgarden 261, Pagenaud 255, VeeKay 243, Herta 242, Ericsson 239, Rahal 228, Sato 206.

Share Button