IndyCar: Alex Palou might just be ‘impossible to beat’

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

Not everybody in IndyCar agrees that Alex Palou is “impossible to beat”. Palou has done everything humanly possible to change that.

The 2022 IndyCar season saw one winning margin greater than 6.17 seconds. That winning margin was 30.381 seconds, and it came at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca when Alex Palou ended an 18-race win drought from 11th place on the grid to secure his lone win of the year.

Palou delivered the largest beatdown the series had seen since the sanctioning body was formed in 1994 under the name Indy Racing League before competition began two years later.

By IndyCar standards, a gap of more than 10 seconds equates to a couple time zones. A gap in excess of a half minute had quite literally been unheard of. Scott Dixon had held the record, having won by 29.780 seconds at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course in 2009.

It didn’t take the 2021 series champion nearly as long to secure his first win of the year in 2023. He was again dominant, this time at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course, where he secured his fifth career victory by 16.801 seconds.

In a question to runner-up Pato O’Ward of Arrow McLaren after that race, the words “impossible to beat” were used to describe Palou. Before answering the question, O’Ward couldn’t let that slide.

“Impossible to beat? I don’t agree,” he said, and with somewhat of the edge that he has grown accustomed to displaying as a fan-favorite well-known for speaking his mind.

But since that day, Alex Palou has been as close to impossible to beat as one can possibly get in IndyCar.

Since dominating the race at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course, Palou has been on a roll. The following weekend, he took the pole position for the Indy 500 with the fastest pole speed in race history, and he battled back from 30th to fourth place after being run into in the pits by Ed Carpenter Racing’s Rinus VeeKay.

He went on to dominate the inaugural race on the streets of Detroit, Michigan from the pole position, and he earned a statement victory at Road America this past weekend to match his career-high single season win total through just eight of 17 races on this year’s schedule.

Is he impossible to beat? No. Nobody is; not even Formula 1’s Max Verstappen. But over the last five on-track weekends, he has not been beaten by anything other than another driver’s error. So that makes the driver of the No. 10 Honda about as close to it as one can get in the most competitive racing series on the planet.

He now owns a 74-point lead in the championship standings over teammate Marcus Ericsson with nine races remaining on the schedule, a gap that cannot mathematically be closed over the course of one race weekend. No driver has clinched a championship since before the season finale since Dan Wheldon won the 2005 title.

Drivers have gotten hot before. Palou’s Road America win made the 2023 season the eighth straight season in which a driver has won back-to-back races. It’s not uncommon.

But this just feels different.

Palou has racked up seven straight top five finishes, and he hasn’t finished lower than eighth place this year. Even Ericsson is a race winner who hasn’t placed lower than 10th, and yet he finds himself a win and a half behind his teammate not even halfway through the season.

Believe it or not, Ericsson has had a stronger season this year than he had at this point last year. And he led the standings at this time last year.

Such is the strength and dominance of Alex Palou.

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The next race on the 2023 IndyCar schedule is the Honda Indy 200 at Mid-Ohio presented by the all new 2023 Civic Type R, a race which Palou finished in second place last year and Ericsson finished in second the year before. It is set to be broadcast live from Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course on USA Network beginning a 1:30 p.m. ET on Sunday, July 2. Begin a free trial of FuboTV and don’t miss it!