“You cannot relax,” says Palou, despite big lead ahead of finale

Alex Palou says that his commanding lead heading to the NTT IndyCar Series finale in Long Beach won’t alter his approach to race hard, race smart.

“You cannot relax,” says Palou, despite big lead ahead of finale

With a 35-point margin over his only rival now, Pato O’Ward, the Chip Ganassi Racing-Honda driver need only finish 11th on the streets of Long Beach to seal the deal. Even were O’Ward to match Palou’s tally of three wins, and earn all bonus points available, with Palou classified last, the Arrow McLaren SP-Chevrolet driver would only draw level on points. Palou would then clinch the title based on number of second places compared with his rival, 2-1.

After scoring the second of those runner-up finishes today at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca, Palou said of next Sunday’s finale at Long Beach: “Obviously that helps knowing that we have a good margin instead of needing to win to get the championship. That means we did a really good job so far. Happy with that.

“But like Romain [Grosjean] was saying, he was P8 that last stint and finished P3 because he didn't have more laps, otherwise he would have won. In IndyCar you cannot relax at any moment.

“We just keep doing what we've been doing – race hard, race smart, and hopefully we can get that championship without needing to finish 11th or anything. We will try and get the best result possible.”

He later added: “I'm relieved that we get seven podiums this season. Like, it's not that we were lucky three weekends. We've been a bit unlucky actually.”

“[Now] I'm going to Long Beach where I've never been. Pato, Newgarden been there. Dixon too. Everybody that I'm fighting has been there. It's not going to be easy. Even if I only have to finish P11, I still have to finish P11. So as I said, I'm not going to think about the points till the last pit stop.”

Once Alexander Rossi had spun out and Will Power had suffered an electrical failure, Palou had a clear run at polesitter and eventual winner Colton Herta. On a clear track, Herta was able to stretch his lead, but backmarkers backed up the Andretti Autosport driver to Palou.

Asked whether he could have challenged for the win, Palou admitted that “unfortunately we didn't have the pace that Colton had. I think in reds and blacks he had a bit more. As soon as I tried to catch him, which we tried, I would just cook my tires. Yeah, I couldn't go as fast as him without losing my tires…

“There were some moments I was pushing, especially at the beginning of the race when we catch him a lot. Maybe I would have a chance. As soon as I was getting really close, he would push a bit more and I could see that. He had a bit more margin than I had today.

“I was still trying, even at the end. But, yeah, he was on another planet today. He did a really good job together with the team to be superior than what we were today.”

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