A year removed from a second-place finishing position in the Indianapolis 500, Alex Palou picked up right where he left off.
The defending NTT IndyCar Series champion qualified second and put up respectable four-lap average of 234.048 mph in the Fast Six at the iconic 2.5-mile Indianapolis Motor Speedway. That result keeps his three career qualifying efforts all top 10s for “The Greatest Spectacle in Racing”.
Palou posted the third-fastest time when the Fast 12 participants put in their circuits. He then rolled off fourth out of the six to go for the pole and held it until Dixon topped him with a monstrous performance.
“There was not a lot of nerves,” Palou said. “I knew he was going to get it. Everybody knew. He is the man here. It was like, ‘Okay’. To be honest, Chip Ganassi Racing team had a great job having five cars in the Fast 12, four in the Fast Six.
“My car was really good. I think my best car was doing Fast Six, so I was super comfortable. I think I did everything I had. I kind of wish that Scott, knowing that he had already four pole laps here, he could have gave me one, but he doesn’t share much. We’ll try and get it next year.”
There has been no team so far to match the consistent pace of Ganassi’s Hondas since the start of Indy 500 preparation, and that theme continued into qualifying. As Palou noted, he was joined by all four of his teammates in the Fast 12, with only one missing out on the Fast Six.
All week, conversations have been exchanged between the CGR drivers. Once Dixon was crowned first-place starter, the group huddled along with team owner, Chip Ganassi, displaying the comradery.
“We obviously know what everybody is running, and we all share what we are feeling and how the balance was,” Palou said. “I think that’s what makes us stronger. I think if we would just hide everything, we wouldn’t be with six cars in the Fast 12 or four cars in the Fast Six.
“Yeah, we were sharing everything. That’s what I was a bit scared as well when Scott was behind me, but it was good. That’s why I think I’m in the front row today.”
The goal is accomplished, considering how crucial a higher starting spot can have an effect on a team’s strategy to setup the 200-lap contest. A pole position is much to celebrate; however, a week from now stands the Borg-Warner Trophy.
The 24-year-old Spaniard diced it up with last year’s winner of the race, Helio Castroneves in the late stages. Leading 35 laps on the day, Palou has reiterated this month of May that he needed more experience on this style of racing working the lanes and traffic to win last time around.
“Yeah, we had really strong cars on traffic conditions,” said Palou. “I was actually happier with my car on race trim than I was at the beginning on qualifying trim. Maybe because we didn’t get to run a lot on Friday, but it’s a long race, man. It’s a long race.
“I remember last year I was almost nowhere in the first two runs, and then at the end we were up there. You need to nail everything, every single lap. The strategy, every single pass, every pit stop.
“Yeah, it is target is to get through the first pit stop and then the second and then until the end and try and be at the front like first two places I would say for the last 10. We try and do everything we can to get us in that position.”