The Mexican driver Pato O’Ward finished second in the GMR Grand Prix of Indianapolis won by Alex Palou (Chip Ganassi), who completed a perfect race this Saturday by prevailing and dominating from start to finish, to become the leader of the IndyCar championship at only two weeks for the 500-mile dispute in that same setting.
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It is the first victory of the season for the Spanish driver, and the fifth different winner in the five grand prix contested so far in the 2023 Indycar Series. Only the Danish Christian Lundgaard (Rahal Letterman), who was defending pole position, was able to plant him heads in the initial forty spins.
In the final stretch it was the Mexican Pato O’Ward (Arrow McLaren) who took second place and tried to catch up with the Catalan, without success.
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“It has been a great job from the whole team. I’m very happy. I knew since yesterday that we had the fastest car, it has gone very well all weekend”, commented Palou as soon as he got out of the car.
He was always considered a candidate for the title, but what happened this Saturday in Indianapolis confirms it much more: “I am focused on the championship, very happy with the first victory, it has come a little late but we are on the right foot for the championship.”
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Lungaard retained second place, and behind him the entire Arrow McLaren team chasing him with the American Alexander Rossi, the Swede Felix Rosenqvist and O’Ward himself.
The Dale Coyne Racing team was quickly met with bad news, on the second lap rookie Sting Ray Robb hit David Malukas and both were out of the race at the first change.
Palou’s first pit stop was after 18 laps, coinciding with a very aggressive moment from Lundgaard behind the wheel. The Dane was losing a second in the last three laps before visiting the mechanics.
Palou is the championship leader with 174 points, six more than O’Ward. Both have been very protagonists in this first third of the championship and the most regular on the grid. The Swede Marcus Ericsson, leader until today, finished the race in eighth position.
The last time Palou climbed to the top of the podium was at the last Grand Prix of last season, at Laguna Seca, on September 11. It marks his fifth victory in the Indycar Series.
The Spanish rider made an excellent start, taking risks and gaining a position in the first metres. A second place that quickly allowed him to lead the test before completing the first lap.
He didn’t find much opposition in the first few tracks of the circuit, and with no one to fight with, the Spaniard focused on setting fast laps and increasing the gap with the rest of his rivals.
With Graham Rahal (Rahal Letterman) as the leader extending his time in the pits, Lundgaard maintained his best pace compared to Palou, and even overtook him.
Rahal went through the pits on lap 32 and once again left the top places for his teammate Lundgaard and Palou. Halfway through the race, the Spaniard was cutting time again with the Dane, managing to be less than a second behind.
A comeback that culminated on lap 42. He took the whole game out of his Chip-Ganassi, putting Lundgaard far behind. It was the fastest car on the circuit and he got a lot out of it, regaining the lead even without the need for the others to go through the pits.
O’Ward fought against his own teammates for trying to reach the podium and seek the first place in the championship. It didn’t take him too long to get rid of Rossi, but with Rosenqvist he needed more patience.
It was not easy for the Mexican to avoid leaving the track during the laps in which he had to drive with a very worn left front wheel. Once this problem was solved, he resumed his excellent driving and became the only rival capable of disturbing a Palou who was flying at the controls of his single-seater.
After the last pit stop, the ten seconds gap between the Spaniard and the Mexican were too much and Palou dedicated himself to ensuring victory in the race and, with it, also the lead.
“It was a weird race, fighting between teammates, I tried to close the gap I had with Alex but he was fastest today,” O’Ward said after the race.
In just two weeks, the legendary Indianapolis 500 will be held at this same circuit, already with the traditional oval, completing what many consider to be the best month of the year in the motor home of the United States.