Palou wins Indianapolis GP, moves into IndyCar points lead

INDIANAPOLIS -- Alex Palou inherited the lead on Lap 66, then drove away from the pack Saturday to win the Indianapolis Grand Prix by 16.8006 seconds over Pato O'Ward.

It's Palou's first win in 11 career starts at Indy, his first of the season and the first for Chip Ganassi Racing since Marcus Ericsson won the season opener in March. The victory also sent the 2021 IndyCar series champion into the points lead, six ahead of Arrow McLaren's O'Ward, who has been the runner-up three times in five races this season.

Palou has won five times since joining the series in 2020.

"We honestly knew we had a fast car yesterday," the Spaniard said. "The car has been fast all weekend. I just had to execute."

Alexander Rossi, the 2016 Indianapolis 500 winner, finished third. Pole winner Christian Lundgaard finished fourth for Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing -- his second straight top-five finish on Indy's 14-turn, 2.439-mile road course.

Felix Rosenqvist, a teammate of Palou and Rossi, was fifth while defending race winner Colton Herta of Andretti Autosport wound up sixth.

But nobody could stay with Palou, who passed Lundgaard at the end of the first lap and wound up leading a race-high 52 of 85 laps on a warm, sticky, mostly sunny day.

The race came down to tire strategy late.

Lundgaard and Palou pitted on opposite ends of Lap 60 with Lundgaard going with sticker primaries while Palou went with scuffed tires. O'Ward, of Mexico, pitted three laps later and took the softer sticker reds.

And when Rossi pitted on Lap 65, going with reds, Palou moved to the front of the pack and kept pulling away.

Ericsson, the defending Indianapolis 500 champ, finished eighth and dropped two spots in the points chase to third, 18 points behind his teammate Palou.

Practice for the Indianapolis 500 begins Tuesday on the track's historic 2.5-mile oval. Pole qualifying will be held next Saturday with Bump Day set for May 21. IndyCar's biggest race of the season will be run May 28.