Story By: PAUL KELLY / INDYCAR – DETROIT, MI – NTT P1 Award winner Palou used his smooth driving style to prevail on one of the toughest circuits in the NTT INDYCAR SERIES, capturing the Chevrolet Detroit Grand Prix presented by Lear on the streets of Detroit.
Spaniard Palou kept the lead during two late restarts in the No. 10 Ridgeline Lubricants Honda of Chip Ganassi Racing and beat the No. 12 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet of Will Power to the finish by 1.1843 seconds.
It was the sixth career victory for 2021 season champion Palou and his second in the last three races this season, as he also won the GMR Grand Prix on May 13 on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course.
“The No. 10 Ridgeline Lubricants car was on point today,” Palou said. “Super proud of the job we did. It was tricky there at the end, man, with those (worn) tires couldn’t really get to temperature (on restarts).”
Felix Rosenqvist finished a season-best third in the No. 6 onsemi Arrow McLaren Chevrolet after muscling past teammate Alexander Rossi during a spirited duel in the closing laps on the nine-turn, 1.7-mile temporary street circuit.
Six-time series champion Scott Dixon finished fourth in the No. 9 PNC Bank Chip Ganassi Racing Honda, putting two CGR cars in the top four. Rossi rounded out the top five in the No. 7 NTT DATA Arrow McLaren Chevrolet.
Palou led from the drop of the green flag in the 100-lap race under sunny skies. He stretched his advantage to 9.1 seconds by Lap 21 after starting on the Firestone alternate tires, whose softer compound has more grip but less durability. Power started seventh on Firestone primary tires and used the longer wear on those tires to cut Palou’s lead to 1.5 seconds by Lap 29.
At that point, Chip Ganassi Racing elected to call Palou to the pits for Firestone primary tires, the same rubber as Power. Six laps later, Power pitted for the first time, opting for his mandatory run on Firestone alternates that use sustainable rubber from the guayule shrub, and handed the lead back to Palou.
After Power blended back into the race from his stop, Palou gradually built his lead to four seconds. But that gap evaporated on Lap 43 when Pato O’Ward crashed in Turn 9 in the No. 5 Arrow McLaren Chevrolet.
Palou held off Power on the restart on Lap 49, but the caution flag flew during the first lap of green after the restart when rookie Sting Ray Robb went deep into the runoff area in Turn 3 in the No. 51 biohaven Honda.
The ensuing restart on Lap 56 was about the only spot of bother all day for Palou. Power, on grippier alternate tires, dove under Palou for first in the Turn 3 hairpin at the end of the long back straightaway. Palou’s car seemed to pause at the exit of that corner, apparently due to a problem that forced him to cycle through the emergency electronics mode on the wheel before normal service was restored.
Reigning and two-time series champion Power had pulled away to a 2.8-second lead over Palou two laps after that restart. But Palou collected himself, focused forward and dove under Power in Turn 3 on Lap 65 to regain the lead.
“We had an issue that was probably my fault, but then we got stuck there,” Palou said. “I couldn’t really upshift. Proud that we got it back and that we got another win this year.”
After the field cycled through its final pit stops, Palou led by nearly five seconds when Romain Grosjean crashed in Turn 4 in the No. 28 DHL Honda on Lap 82, triggering another full-course caution. Palou held off Power on that restart on Lap 87, another on Lap 91 after David Malukas crashed in the No. 18 HMD Trucking Honda during the previous restart and yet again on a final restart on Lap 96 after Santino Ferrucci’s No. 14 Sexton Properties/AJ Foyt Racing Chevrolet and Robb’s car went deep into the Turn 3 runoff while dueling for position.
There was plenty of muscular driving and contact over the last five laps, including Dixon running into the rear of Power’s car on the final restart and spirited, aggressive swaps of position by Arrow McLaren teammates Rosenqvist and Rossi. Palou levitated in front of the mayhem and cruised to victory, leading 74 of the 100 laps.
“I did everything I could to get Palou,” Power said. “He was just too quick, man. Too good today.”
Palou will split $10,000 with Chip Ganassi Racing and his chosen charity, The American Legion, for his victory as part of the PeopleReady Force For Good Challenge. He has won two of the three legs needed to earn a $1 million bonus, with a win on the road course at IMS and the street circuit at Detroit. Palou can secure the bonus with a win in any of the three remaining three oval races, a doubleheader July 22-23 at Iowa Speedway and Aug. 27 at World Wide Technology Raceway.
The next NTT INDYCAR SERIES race is the Sonsio Grand Prix at Road America presented by AMR on Sunday, June 18 in Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin.