Alex Palou came into last weekend’s IndyCar Series doubleheader at Iowa Speedway in full control of the championship with a 117-point lead over Scott Dixon. The Spaniard left Newton with an 80-point lead, but things could have been a lot worse. Josef Newgarden reinforced his title as “King of the Corn”, sweeping both races at Iowa and clinching his sixth career race at the track. But Palou didn’t let the Penske driver take off too far with finishes of eighth and third respectively.
After winning three consecutive races starting in Detroit, Palou dragged his damaged #10 Honda to a runner-up finish behind Christian Lundgaard in Toronto. But the Chip Ganassi Racing driver wasn’t caught by surprise by Newgarden’s domination on the 7/8-mile oval.
“I expected Josef to win because, as Will said, the last races that he finished on an oval, not including Indy 500 this year, yeah, but the past, he has won.”– Alex Palou
Although he may have expected a victory or two from Newgarden in Iowa, that does not mean Palou is comfortable with his championship lead being reduced by 37 points in just one weekend. In fact, he has worries about the final oval on the calendar at Gateway in late August:
“I hope that before getting to Gateway, it’s not as bad as Iowa in the past, but it’s not been great.” said Palou after the second race at Iowa. “I think I feel a bit more comfortable there, and also we have a bit more performance from the car.”
The remaining schedule looks pretty favorable for Palou based on past results. With average finishes of 10th or lower at Nashville, Portland, and Laguna Seca (including a win at the latter in 2022), the 2021 champion has his work cut out for him.
Newgarden trails Alex Palou by 80 points, followed by Dixon and Marcus Ericsson, with Scott McLaughlin and Pato O’Ward tied for the fifth spot with 389 points.
IndyCar returns to the streets of Nashville next Sunday for the Big Machine Music City Grand Prix.