Palou stretches IndyCar lead by winning bruising Detroit race

by Jack Benyon
10 min read

Alex Palou grabbed his sixth IndyCar victory and his first on a street course in a strong debut for the series’ new Detroit street track, with late restart drama ending an exciting race of attrition and concentration.

Concerns over the bumpy and narrow track causing trouble were confirmed on the first racing lap as Callum Ilott ran into the back of Kyle Kirkwood at the first turn, ending the former’s day and breaking the latter’s rear wing.

The early caution added a third strategy as Kirkwood and Colton Herta were among the drivers to pit on lap four, while the other strategies were either starting on the hard tyres or starting on the softs.

Unlike many, Palou was able to make the softs last longer from the start and went all the way to lap 30 and had a gap as big as eight seconds before Will Power – the best starter on the hards – passed a string of cars from seventh on the grid to get to within a second and a half of Palou.

Palou remained ahead after Power stopped four laps later.

If there was any doubt about Power’s charge through the field and what that may have done to his tyres, on his 33rd tour of the track out of 100 he managed one of the fastest laps of the race to that point.

However, even with the initial benefit the soft tyres should have provided, Palou drove away from Power by over four seconds on the hards before he was lucky to not be collected in an incident involving Pato O’Ward.

The Arrow McLaren driver had stalled on his previous stop, thought he’d broke a driveshaft, was wheeled back to his pit and restarted but then crashed on lap 44 dive-bombing Santino Ferrucci at Turn 9 in an ill-judged move, trying to stay on the lead lap.

That reset the order – including a bizarre crash for Graham Rahal and Benjamin Pedersen who both locked up and crashed at Turn 1 during the caution! – and it wasn’t long before we had a new leader.

Palou had to restart his car to solve a shifting issue just before the green flag, and then Power pulled off a gorgeous dummy to sneak up the inside of Palou at the Turn 3 corner entry to lead, establishing a lead of around two seconds.

But eight laps later Palou had reeled Power in and the next lap Power locked up at Turn 3 gifting Palou a path down the inside to claim the lead before the last stops.

Scott Dixon then tried the undercut – triggering other drivers to pit to cover him off – with Palou boasting a 3.3 second gap to Power in two laps pitting and emerging ahead to lead by over five seconds.

It was clear Power would have to cover off the challenge from behind rather than worry about Palou, whose pace on both tyres opposite to Power was spectacular at times and showed he deserved a second win of the year after the Indianapolis road course last month.

But then Romain Grosjean crashing at Turn 4 brought out a caution and set up a 15 lap showdown. He  ran wide into the wall in an incident he put down to a suspension failure, and which left him apoplectic after exiting his car.

David Malukas crashing at Turn 9 before making the restart delayed the commencement of action further, before a wild restart with 10 to go.

Palou went deep on the restart, slowed Power and Dixon clipped Power. Palou kept the lead ahead of Alexander Rossi jumping from fifth to second in the melee, ahead of Power, who barged Dixon wide at Turn 4 allowing Felix Rosenqvist through into fourth.

Another restart followed for a crash further back, with the restart coming with five laps to go.

Power then made an incredible move on Rossi at Turn 4 on the restart allowing Palou to scurry away, winning the race by just over a second to Power who bags his best result of the season.

Behind, Rosenqvist bumped Arrow McLaren team-mate Rossi into the wall at the Turn 3 exit to take third, ahead of Dixon who capitalised on Rossi’s off to sneak through.

Rossi was an unlucky fifth having been second mere laps before the finish.

Kirkwood had arguably the drive of the day.

Before his opening lap drama, he’d set the fastest lap in qualifying – having been on pole and won the last street race we went to at Long beach – before clipping the Turn 6 wall.

He pitted for a new rear wing and went long on the hard tyres, before a nice overlap strategy around the last stops catapulted him forwards.

All of that was underlined with the kind of pace he’d shown in qualifying with the only race lap under 1m02s.

Behind Kirkwood, Scott McLaughlin came back from a collision with Grosjean earlier on with some epic overtaking to recover to seventh ahead of Marcus Armstrong’s best IndyCar result in his rookie year so far in eighth.

Armstrong’s Ganassi team-mate Marcus Ericsson looked like he was on ice at the last restart struggling to get temperature in his tyres and took ninth, but still second in the championship albeit 51 points behind Palou.

Indianapolis 500 winner Josef Newgarden was 10th after a slow first stop typified a day where he uncharacteristically struggled for pace.

Race Results

Pos Name Team Car Laps Laps Led Total Time Fastest Lap Pitstops Pts
1 Alex Palou Chip Ganassi Racing Dallara DW12-Honda 100 74 2h1m58.117s 1m02.15s 2 54
2 Will Power Team Penske Dallara DW12-Chevrolet 100 14 +1.184s 1m02.083s 2 41
3 Felix Rosenqvist Arrow McLaren SP Dallara DW12-Chevrolet 100 0 +5.952s 1m02.137s 2 35
4 Scott Dixon Chip Ganassi Racing Dallara DW12-Honda 100 0 +7.568s 1m02.188s 2 32
5 Alexander Rossi Arrow McLaren SP Dallara DW12-Chevrolet 100 1 +9.984s 1m02.097s 2 31
6 Kyle Kirkwood Andretti Autosport Dallara DW12-Honda 100 1 +10.543s 1m01.941s 4 29
7 Scott McLaughlin Team Penske Dallara DW12-Chevrolet 100 0 +10.935s 1m02.539s 2 26
8 Marcus Armstrong Chip Ganassi Racing Dallara DW12-Honda 100 0 +11.679s 1m02.284s 2 24
9 Marcus Ericsson Chip Ganassi Racing Dallara DW12-Honda 100 7 +13.018s 1m02.134s 3 23
10 Josef Newgarden Team Penske Dallara DW12-Chevrolet 100 2 +14.022s 1m02.26s 2 21
11 Colton Herta Andretti Autosport Dallara DW12-Honda 100 0 +17.661s 1m02.707s 3 19
12 Devlin DeFrancesco Andretti Steinbrenner Autosport Dallara DW12-Honda 100 0 +19.432s 1m02.408s 3 18
13 Simon Pagenaud Meyer Shank Racing Dallara DW12-Honda 100 0 +19.649s 1m02.557s 2 17
14 Agustín Canapino Juncos Hollinger Racing Dallara DW12-Chevrolet 100 0 +21.422s 1m02.567s 2 16
15 Conor Daly Ed Carpenter Racing Dallara DW12-Chevrolet 100 0 +21.775s 1m02.831s 3 15
16 Christian Lundgaard Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing Dallara DW12-Honda 100 0 +22.116s 1m02.314s 3 14
17 Jack Harvey Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing Dallara DW12-Honda 100 0 +23.071s 1m03.02s 3 13
18 Rinus VeeKay Ed Carpenter Racing Dallara DW12-Chevrolet 100 0 +23.819s 1m02.586s 2 12
19 Hélio Castroneves Meyer Shank Racing Dallara DW12-Honda 100 0 +24.674s 1m02.48s 5 11
20 Benjamin Pedersen AJ Foyt Racing Dallara DW12-Chevrolet 97 0 +3 laps 1m03.528s 4 10
21 Santino Ferrucci AJ Foyt Racing Dallara DW12-Chevrolet 97 0 +3 laps 1m02.884s 5 9
22 Sting Ray Robb Dale Coyne Racing Dallara DW12-Honda 97 0 +3 laps 1m03.734s 3 8
David Malukas Dale Coyne Racing/HMD Motorsports Dallara DW12-Honda 85 0 DNF 1m02.439s 2 7
Romain Grosjean Andretti Autosport Dallara DW12-Honda 80 0 DNF 1m02.233s 2 6
Graham Rahal Dreyer & Reinbold Racing Dallara DW12-Chevrolet 50 0 DNF 1m03.14s 2 5
Patricio O'Ward Arrow McLaren SP Dallara DW12-Chevrolet 41 1 DNF 1m02.606s 3 6
Callum Ilott Juncos Hollinger Racing Dallara DW12-Chevrolet 1 0 DNF 1m30.275s 0 5
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