Palou says he was faster than McLaughlin but couldn’t pass

Defending NTT IndyCar Series champion Alex Palou believes he had a car to win at Mid-Ohio but just couldn’t find a way around Scott McLaughlin.

Alex Palou, Chip Ganassi Racing Honda

Palou started seventh on used reds and was running sixth after Felix Rosenqvist’s mechanical failure. Barry Wanser, strategist on the #10 Chip Ganassi Racing-Honda, called Palou to the pits early for the first round of stops – four laps before polesitter and initial leader Pato O’Ward, and five laps before McLaughlin – and Palou was sensationally fast on his fresh set of alternate compound tires, setting the fastest lap of the race on Lap 29.

However, his attempt to undercut the leaders was only partially successful because the field was brought under yellow and slowed while McLaughlin was in the pits, so although the Ganassi driver cleared Simon Pagenaud, Colton Herta, Scott Dixon and even O’Ward – who was being plagued with power issues – McLaughlin’s Penske was able to assume the lead.

Throughout the second and third stints, Palou tried his hardest to find a way past the Penske driver, but came up just over half a second short at the checkered flag.

As usual, however, Palou expressed contentment at the progress he made.

“I was super happy; we had a fast car,” he remarked afterward. “Honda gave us everything we needed today with [fuel] mileage. That's why we were able to pit early and try and get that undercut that worked. It was a bit of a shame that we got that yellow because we were leading by two seconds when we passed pit exit.

“Anyway, it's the same rules for everybody. But it's good – good to be back here, good to fight until the end. It's super tough to pass here, at least if you are on the same tire strategy. I think we were a bit faster but couldn't really pass Scott. He did an amazing race, too…

“I think we had a fast car, but here it’s tough with the same tires [both on primaries for the final stint] to try and get a run if he doesn't do a mistake. He was perfect today. I was trying to push him to maybe just get a run. We had two or three runs into 4, but that was on the outside and I was not really side by side, so I thought it was not the best move I could make.”

“I think we did the best we had today, so it's not like we left something on the table like we did at the Indy road course [when he spun in the damp early stages], for example. That was frustrating. Today was just fun… I feel like every time we've been on the podium we've been pushing the guy in front until the last lap, which happened at St. Pete, Barber and here.

Palou now sits 35 points in arrears of his Indy 500-winning Ganassi teammate, points leader Marcus Ericsson, and said there was no particular track over the remaining eight races of the schedule that he had particularly highlighted as potential venues to claw back the remaining deficit.

“I think here in IndyCar it's all the races,” said the 25-year-old who won the IndyCar title in only his second season here, and his first with Ganassi. “You have to be up there at all the races and you have to get the best you have at all the races. We saw it last year. We are seeing it this year. Yeah, had some races where we had almost no points, and that's why we're down there. But we're getting there.

“It's going to be tough in my situation with like, Toronto [next round] – I've never been there. Iowa, we did a test there. We were not super good, but we have enough time to prepare for that.

“But yeah, I think every race you need to try and do the best you can and try and be top 5 to win the championship at the end.”

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