Albany Times Union

Palou looking to reclaim Indy lead

Driver tries to bounce back after mishaps erase title advantage

- By Jenna Fryer Associated Press

As he watched his hold on the Indycar championsh­ip slip away, Alex Palou was neither angry nor frustrated over his second bad break in as many weeks. An engine issue had knocked him out of the race a week before, and seven days later he was collected in a three-car crash at Madison. The back-to-back mishaps allowed Pato O’ward to turn a 42-point deficit into a 10-point lead over Palou with just three races left on the schedule.

Two-time series champion Josef Newgarden pulled within 22 points of the lead, and five drivers remain squarely in the title hunt.

Palou refused to complain about the three penalties he has incurred for engine changes — including one last Saturday at World Wide Technology Raceway that forced him to start 21st in a 24-driver field — or the crash that made him a spectator as O’ward took the championsh­ip lead.

“I’m driving for Chip Ganassi Racing in Indycar. I think I’m lucky,” Palou said as the race roared on without him.

His position didn’t change after watching replays of the crash triggered by Rinus Veekay’s aggressive driving, or after Veekay texted him Sunday to apologize. The 24-year-old Spaniard has maintained a positive outlook and cheerful dispositio­n despite a streak of bad breaks.

Few had heard of Palou when he turned up at Midohio in the summer of 2019

to test an Indy car for Dale Coyne Racing. He had enough funding for Coyne to give him a chance in 2020 with a fulltime Indycar ride, and Palou turned it into a two-year deal with Ganassi.

Palou won his debut race with his new team to open this season, becoming just the second Spaniard to win in the Indycar Series. He followed it with a runner-up finish to

Helio Castroneve­s in the Indianapol­is 500, a second victory at Road America, six podiums and the championsh­ip lead after eight of 13 rounds.

Palou has not dropped lower than third in the standings all season and has finished seventh or better nine times. Now everybody knows who he is: a legitimate title contender.

 ?? Darron Cummings / Associated Press ?? Alex Palou, right, led the Indycar title race by 42 points two weeks ago. Now he trails Pato O’ward by 10 points with three races left.
Darron Cummings / Associated Press Alex Palou, right, led the Indycar title race by 42 points two weeks ago. Now he trails Pato O’ward by 10 points with three races left.

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