IndyCar: How bad was Alex Palou’s ‘disastrous’ Toronto weekend?

Alex Palou, Chip Ganassi Racing, Toronto, IndyCar - Mandatory Credit: Dan Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports
Alex Palou, Chip Ganassi Racing, Toronto, IndyCar - Mandatory Credit: Dan Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports /

By his standards, Alex Palou had a disastrous afternoon on the streets of Toronto in Sunday’s IndyCar race. His result was still incredible.

Throughout the last month and a half, it has become quite clear that in order to have any chance of catching Chip Ganassi Racing’s Alex Palou in the IndyCar championship standings, two things need to happen.

First of all, he needs to have several bad races. With a 110-point lead — more than two full race weekends — heading into Sunday’s Honda Indy Toronto on the streets of Exhibition Place in Toronto, Ontario and just eight races remaining on this year’s 17-race schedule, that was relatively obvious.

And secondly, somebody was going to need to consistently capitalize on Palou’s bad races to bring down that deficit and make it manageable, preferably by at least preventing the 26-year-old Spaniard from becoming the first driver to clinch an IndyCar championship before the season finale since Dan Wheldon in 2005.

By his standards, Alex Palou had a pretty bad IndyCar race weekend in Toronto.

He qualified in 15th place for Sunday’s 85-lap race around the 11-turn, 1.786-mile (2.874-kilometer) temporary street circuit, eight places lower than his previous worst start of the season.

He ended up being caught up in a mid-pack melee on a restart and suffered significant front wing damage as a result, damage which clearly compromised his pace throughout the remainder of the event.

So unsurprisingly, when the checkered flag flew, he found himself with his worst finish in more than a month and a half.

Yet a “disastrous” day for Palou was anything but disastrous. The driver of the No. 10 Honda saw his three-race winning streak come to an end, but with a runner-up finish.

Yes, even with all of that chaos, Alex Palou finished a single spot away from a historic fourth straight IndyCar win.

And if that wasn’t crazy enough, the absolute worst thing that you can say about his championship bid is that his lead only increased by seven points, marking the lowest single-race increase he has seen as the points leader this year.

He leads teammate Scott Dixon, who utilized a late rally to fourth place himself to limit the damage, by 117 points with seven races remaining on the schedule.

The rest of the field is simply perplexed at this point. What needs to happen to keep Palou from simply blowing everyone else out of the water on race day?

Granted, he didn’t actually win Sunday’s race, so there is that. But before Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing’s Christian Lundgaard made his late race-winning pass, it looked as though Palou was going to become the first driver since Sebastien Bourdais in 2006 to win a fourth straight race.

With just a few more inches on that aforementioned restart, perhaps that broken front wing never comes into play, and Palou wins yet again.

But seriously, though? What more do these other championship-caliber, title-contending drivers — Dixon, Josef Newgarden, Pato O’Ward, etc. — need to do to stop Palou from building his lead over them — and on a day when almost nothing went his way until the final round of pit stops?

Palou opened the weekend as a prohibitive -1000 favorite to win the 2023 IndyCar championship, and while his win streak ended, DraftKings Sportsbook, which is now offering fans an instant $150 just for betting $5 (with no promo code!), lists him as an even more prohibitive -1600 favorite ahead of this coming race weekend’s doubleheader at Iowa Speedway.

Palou hasn’t generally been strong on short ovals, and three of the season’s final seven races are short oval races, but based on what happened in Toronto, a “bad” day for him at this point could be a day on which he only laps 22 of the other 26 cars and wins by 10.2 seconds.

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