Risky Strategy Calls by CGR Continue to Bring Success with Alex Palou Victory at Laguna Seca

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Alex Palou Wins Chaotic Laguna Seca IndyCar RaceIcon Sportswire - Getty Images

For the second time this season Alex Palou won an Indycar race after starting on the pole. The Chip Ganassi driver returned to victory lane Sunday evening for the first time since winning on the Indy Road Course at the beginning of the Month of May.

With the NASCAR race running long due to an extended red flag for weather, the IndyCar broadcast was pushed to Peacock and CNBC after originally being slotted for the USA network.

It was assumed that the Firestone Grand Prix of Monterey was going to come down to who could save the most fuel between Palou and Andretti Global's Colton Herta, but two late cautions alleviated that worry for both drivers.


After starting on the outside of the pole, Kyle Kirkwood took the lead on the opening lap; after charging into turn three and passing Palou on the outside.

Kirkwood led the first 24 laps before the first pit cycles began; Palou inherited the lead when Kirkwood went in with most of the leaders and was on a late pit strategy. Alexander Rossi, who pitted one lap before Kirkwood, would be next to take the lead and, with fresher tires, pull away from the pack.

Palou knew that not securing the lead on the first lap could've easily cost him the race at the end.

"It was a chaotic race, man," Palou told IndyCar on NBC, "I didn't do a really great job on the start, and those restarts at the beginning lost what we worked so hard for."

During this early pit cycle, Palou decided to stick with black tires while others transitioned to reds; he would drop back for the mid-portion of the race.

As the race progressed, Palou continued to pit late, taking him off the same cycle as the majority of the field. He stayed out when most pitted under a caution brought out when Luca Ghiotto slammed into the tire barrier on lap 35.

Chip Ganassi Racing has gambled more than a few times this year on strategy calls but with two wins for both Palou and Scott Dixon, it's hard to fight with their logic, this time Palou admitted to slight doubt.

"Strategy was a bit risky for the position that we were in but we knew we had the pace and we just had to execute", Palou said.

Three cautions and a few close calls in the final 17 laps meant that Palou could never pull free from Herta and the rest of the field as everyone jockeyed for a better position. On the final restart with four laps to go, Palou pulled ahead as Herta and Rossi battled for second.

Coming to the white flag, two-time defending Indy 500 winner Josef Newgarden lost control on lap six and beached into the sand; he was able to get restarted, and the field avoided another caution. Herta was able to hold off Rossi but was unable to make it to the back of Palou; Herta's second-place finish matches his season-best.

Rossi's third-place finish was his best of the 2024 season, but he expected more after leading early before cautions changed the shape of the race.

"Before the yellow, we were quite good upfront, but when you get into a fuel-save race, it's always a little bit difficult," Rossi said post-race. "Nonetheless, it was an amazing job for the time and obviously the best result of the year."

Palou's victory was his final chance to win a race in the DHL Pride Livery during Pride Month.

Palou continues the trend of the winning driver taking the lead in the championship points. Unfortunately, the underside of this trend is that the championship leader doing poorly in the next week. Last week, Will Power won his first race in over two years; this week, he barely survived the first lap. The driver from Toowoomba would recover to finish seventh.

"We came all the way from the back, had a bad first lap," Power shared in a video on X, "It was a good recovery day when you can make the most out of those bad days."

Power will attempt to dethrone Palou in two weeks when Indycar returns with racing at Mid-Ohio.

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