In the Chip Ganassi Racing (CGR) garage prior to Saturday’s GMR Grand Prix at Indianapolis Motor Speedway (IMS), CGR driver Alex Palou told a small group of American Legion Family members and their guests that he’s had some good weekends thus far in the 2023 NTT INDYCAR SERIES, but not a great one yet.
That’s no longer the case.
In the most dominant performance of this INDYCAR season, Palou easily captured the May 13 GMR Grand Prix on IMS’s road course. Palou took the lead on the first lap and was easily in control down the stretch, winning the race by nearly 17 seconds. He led 52 of 85 laps in winning by the biggest margin in this season’s INDYCAR SERIES, vaulting to the top of the series points standings.
“You need the perfect day. Just having a good day isn’t enough,” Palou said. “"Finally, first win of the 2023 (season). I'm super happy, super proud. It was an amazing race, and we won by a big margin. A win is a win, but if you have a big margin, it feels even better.”
It was Palou’s first win of the season, his first at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, and his first in the No. 10 American Legion Honda. It also was the Legion’s red, white and blue “Be the One” livery’s first win in the INDYCAR SERIES since partnering with Chip Ganassi and his team in 2021.
“It was our first win with The American Legion, and that feels super special being here at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway,” Palou said. “It fills everybody with energy – all the crews, the engineers and myself for the big race."
Palou’s No. 10 car was started out on the red Firestone alternate tires – the only driver to do so among the top 7 cars in the starting field. The decision allowed Palou to take the lead on the opening lap and was an omen of things to come. He had the fastest lap of the day on lap 8, and his margin of victory was the second-largest in the track’s history.
“We honestly knew we had a fast car since (the first practice Friday),” Palou said. “The car has been amazing all weekend. Once we knew we were starting on reds (Firestone alternate tires), I think we knew we were going to fight for the win.”
CGR teammates Marcus Ericsson and Marcus Armstrong each both carried American Legion branding on their cars during the race. Ericsson led two laps on his way to an eighth-place finish and now sits in third place in the points race.
“It was another top-10 for the Chip Ganassi Racing Huski Chocolate Honda, and we're okay with that,” Ericsson said via CGR media. “Now, we're ready for the big show. Congrats to Alex and the 10 crew; they did a tremendous job today."
And Armstrong was again the top-finishing rookie with his 15-place showing. He holds a 21-point lead over second place in INDYCAR’s rookie standings.
"I don't think it was an ideal day for us, but nevertheless, we still got some points and some good mileage,” Armstrong said. “Let's go back, look at everything and come back fighting."
The CGR team will next set their sights on prepping for the 107th Indianapolis 500 presented by Gainbridge on May 27 on the 2.5-mile IMS oval.
In the INDY NXT by Firestone race earlier Saturday afternoon, CGR developmental driver Kyffin Simpson started in the fourth position but passed his way to third and remained there the rest of the way for his first podium finish in the series. The 19-year-old Simpson, who has “Be the One” branding on his No. 21 American Legion/Ridgeline Lubricants Honda, now sits in 10th place in the INDY NXT points race.
The next INDY NXT by Firestone event is a doubleheader June 3-4 at the Detroit Grand Prix on the streets of the Motor City.