IndyCar: The only surprise from Alex Palou’s Detroit win

Alex Palou, Chip Ganassi Racing, Detroit, IndyCar (Photo Credit: Detroit Free Press)
Alex Palou, Chip Ganassi Racing, Detroit, IndyCar (Photo Credit: Detroit Free Press) /

As hard as it might be to believe, Alex Palou had never won an IndyCar street course race before Sunday’s Chevrolet Detroit Grand Prix presented by Lear.

Alex Palou is in his fourth season in IndyCar and his third season as the driver of the No. 10 Honda for Chip Ganassi Racing. Palou is already a series champion, having won three races — tied for the most in the series — in his first year with his current team.

Palou entered Sunday afternoon’s Chevrolet Detroit Grand Prix presented by Lear on the brand new street circuit in downtown Detroit, Michigan as the points leader following a successful month of May at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

He dominated the Indianapolis road course race, took the pole position for the Indy 500 with the fastest four-lap pole average in race history, and drove his way from 30th to fourth place after a pit road incident.

Palou kept his momentum rolling on Saturday, when he took the pole position for the first ever race at the new nine-turn, 1.645-mile temporary street circuit. On Sunday, he led 74 of 100 laps en route to securing his second win in the last three races.

But believe it or not, before Sunday, the driver who now boasts a 51-point lead in the championship standings had never previously won an IndyCar street course race.

It may come across as a surprise, given how quickly Palou established himself as a championship contender upon his arrival at Chip Ganassi Racing in 2021, winning his first race with the team — and even how quickly he emerged as a factor at the front when he competed for Dale Coyne Racing with Team Goh in 2020, scoring a podium finish in just his third career start.

Alex Palou’s first IndyCar street course start didn’t come until the 2020 season finale on the streets of St. Petersburg, where he finished in 13th place.

In 2020, many of the street course races were canceled due to COVID-19 pandemic-related restrictions, which prevented the necessary preparation associated with temporary circuits. Even the St. Petersburg race was in doubt, given the fact that it had been scheduled to open up the season in March. It didn’t happen until late October.

Excluding two DNFs which were out of his control, Palou’s two worst finishes in 2021 came in street course races. He finished in 17th place in St. Petersburg and 15th in the first Belle Isle race. But since that June 2021 Belle Isle race, he has not finished lower than eighth in a street course race.

He finished in third place in the second Belle Isle race in 2021, seventh in the inaugural Nashville race, fourth in Long Beach to secure the 2021 championship, second in the 2022 season opener in St. Petersburg, third in Long Beach, sixth on Belle Isle, sixth in his first Toronto start, third in Nashville, eighth in the 2023 season opener in St. Petersburg, and fifth in Long Beach.

His average finish in these 10 starts was 4.7.

So Sunday’s win was a long time coming for the 26-year-old Spaniard, and he performed as if he had been winning street course races regularly throughout his entire career. He didn’t put a wheel wrong all weekend, and he came out on top.

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The next race on the schedule is a race Palou won two years ago, that being the Sonsio Grand Prix at Road America presented by AMR. The race is set to be broadcast live on USA Network from Road America beginning at 1:00 p.m. ET on Sunday, June 18. Start a free trial of FuboTV and don’t miss it!