Indy 500: Alex Palou has a simple answer to an age-old question

Alex Palou, Indy 500, IndyCar (Photo by Justin Casterline/Getty Images)
Alex Palou, Indy 500, IndyCar (Photo by Justin Casterline/Getty Images) /

IndyCar champion Alex Palou knows exactly where he wants to be running when the white flag flies in this year’s Indy 500.

It’s getting harder and harder to beat Alex Palou at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, even before his 17-second win — by IndyCar standards, about two time zones — in the GMR Grand Prix this past Saturday afternoon.

In the 2021 Indy 500, it took one of the race’s only four-time winners to hold him off. Then in 2022, he was denied pole position by a five-time polesitter who needed an all-time record speed to knock him to the middle of the front row.

After leading most of the laps, 40 of 68 to be exact, before his second pit stop, an untimely caution mired him in 30th place, as the ensuing pit closure left him unable to come in for service when he needed it. He was still able to battle back up to ninth.

The speed in the No. 10 Honda has clearly been there since Palou’s arrival to Chip Ganassi Racing back in 2021. And while last year’s silly season was full of headlines and storylines about where he might end up this year, nothing has changed in 2023.

Alex Palou is back for a third Indy 500 with Chip Ganassi Racing, and he performed well in the open test back in April.

Palou is expected to be a frontrunner again in this year’s Indy 500. He is currently listed at +800 at DraftKings Sportsbook, making him the fourth favorite behind Arrow McLaren’s Pato O’Ward (+700), teammate Scott Dixon (+700), and Team Penske’s Josef Newgarden (+750).

With passing expected to be a bit more manageable in this year’s Indy 500, given some of the aerodynamic changes to the cars from last year, Palou finding himself in a position to contend for the win in the closing laps would surprise absolutely nobody — even if he ends up having to do it from the back.

“I think as long as you have a fast car like we had last year, I think it will be super hard, but it will be doable to make it,” Palou told Flag, regarding the possibility of going from the back to the front this year.

“I hope I’m not in that position, honestly, because that makes your day super long and super hard. But yeah, I think it’s doable with the small changes that we have in the car for everybody with a little bit more downforce. Hopefully it’s going to be quite good and an interesting race.”

So where does Palou want to be running when the white flag flies?

It’s an age-old question, especially since the introduction of the DW12 in 2012 has made overtaking a bit more common.

Palou gave a clear answer.


All things considered, the question itself might be a bit “overrated”, per se, and the statistics show it, especially given how often it is discussed. Just twice in the 106-year history of the race has somebody other than the leader at lap 199 won the race.

Despite the introduction of the DW12 chassis bringing with it an era that has seen record number of overtakes, with nine of 11 races matching or surpassing the old record of 30 lead changes from 1960, it hasn’t happened with this particular car.

The last time it happened was in 2011, and it happened then due to an extenuating circumstance. Rookie J.R. Hildebrand crashed from the lead in turn four and was overtaken by Dan Wheldon before the caution came out, and Wheldon led the race for mere seconds en route to becoming a two-time Indy 500 winner.

The only other time it happened was in 2006, when the Andretti Curse proved itself alive and well. Sam Hornish Jr. overcame an absurd gap to race leader Marco Andretti after losing all kinds of momentum with just over a lap to go, passing the 19-year-old rookie on the front straightaway just yards ahead of the checkered flag to win the race.

Interestingly, this lack of passing for the lead on lap 200 cannot be attributed to races ending under yellow either. From 2012 to 2022, just four Indy 500s have ended under caution, with just two of those cautions starting before lap 200 itself. Six races in a row from 2014 to 2019 ended under green, yet every winner led at least the last two circuits.

Palou himself has been in a situation where he was running in second place at the white flag. Unsurprisingly, he finished in second, with Helio Castroneves securing a record-tying fourth Indy 500 win in 2021, so his clear answer is only further justified.

But getting to lap 200 as a contender is no easy task in itself.

“It’s going to take a crazy fast qualifying and it’s going to take an amazing race on my side and on the strategy side, which involves myself, on overtakes, defending, and all that stuff,” he explained. “So I don’t need to be only fast, or I don’t need to be only really good at overtakes. I need to be super complete on Sunday.”

dark. Next. All-time IndyCar wins list

Qualifying for the 107th running of the Indy 500 is scheduled to take place on Saturday, May 20 and Sunday, May 21, and the race itself is scheduled to take place on Sunday, May 28. Begin a free trial of FuboTV now and don’t miss any of the action!