Alex Palou has just lost the world’s biggest race after being locked in an intense battle with now quadruple Indianapolis 500 winner Helio Castroneves – a recipe for a sour taste left in your mouth.
Not for Palou, who beamed with a smile after stepping out of his car into the pit lane after the race and making jokes with the media in post-race interviews.
Palou is honored to have finished second in the 105th Indianapolis 500 race presented by Gainbridge on Sunday at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. He dreamed of competing in this race as a child, and it was a dream come true.
“When it hurts, it’s good because you know there is something better,” Palou said. “When you win, it’s the most satisfying thing. When you lose, for me come on, we finished second in my second Indy 500.
“It just hurts a little. Helio wanted it too. I think all 33 pilots wanted the same. I am happy. I’m living the dream, man. I can drive and fight for the fastest car on the Indianapolis 500 team. Everything was going well today. “
These are wise words for the 24-year-old who is only in his second season in the NTT INDYCAR SERIES. But growing up in Barcelona, Spain, Palou always knew how special “The Greatest Racing Show” was. As a child, he said the emotional pre-race festivities were his favorite of the race.
Moments before taking the Green Flag on Sunday, he thought back to that time as a kid and put everything into perspective.
“When I was at the pre-race listening to the anthem it was the most special thing,” he said. “I think that’s the best part of the race other than the race itself. When I was there I was like, “Dude, we’re starting P6, driving # 10. I’m here in America.”
“I’m having fun.”
Still, coming within 0.4928 seconds of winning the world’s greatest race isn’t a blast, though Palou has the prospect of realizing just how monumental the feat is.
Palou led 35 laps on Sunday, five short of the race high of 40 set by Conor Daly. Palou insists his # 10 Honda NTT DATA Chip Ganassi Racing was the fastest car in the field.
He proved it by engaging in an exciting duel with Castroneves, 46, in the final laps of the race. Palou was chasing his second career NTT INDYCAR SERIES win after winning the season opener on April 18 at Barber Motorsports Park. Castroneves aimed to match AJ Foyt, Al Unser and Rick Mears as the only four-time winners of this race, his last to arrive in 2009.
Fuel was added to the Palou flame against Castroneves on lap 162 of 200 when Palou inherited the lead from Scott Dixon, and Castroneves followed in second. Castroneves took the lead on lap 169-171 until Palou led lap 172 and both leaders came to a halt.
The duo continued their intense battle once they got back on track, even if it wasn’t for the lead. As the peloton made their way through the pit stops, Palou and Castroneves ran face to face. Castroneves had the advantage when reigning winner Takuma Sato retired from the lead on lap 193.
Castroneves, who won the prestigious Rolex 24 At Daytona sports car race in January, inherited the lead and led laps 194 and 195. Palou spun the Brazilian on the outside in turn 1 on lap 196 and held the legend at bay for three laps.
But Castroneves was biding his time, and on lap 199 he made a daring pass outside Palou in Turn 1 of the # 06 Honda AutoNation / SiriusXM for Meyer Shank Racing.
For Palou, that was it. He chased the man who took part in his first INDYCAR race when Palou was not yet a year old to the famous Yard of Bricks as a cheering and socially distant crowd of 135,000 roared in the battle. in front of them.
“I was doing everything to catch up with him,” said Palou. “I think my car was really good on Turn 2 so I knew I had a really good shot for Turns 2 and 3. I was trying to prepare myself a bit. But the point is, it was towed by traffic cars. He was not losing speed against me on the straight.
“That’s all I could do. I think I gave it my all. I even had a moment in turn 4 where I almost hit the wall because I was trying too hard. Yes, these things happen. He was better today.
Castroneves was better today, but Palou believes he will be better in the future thanks to this day in the racing capital of the world. It was his career best result in the Indianapolis 500 – he finished 28th in his first career Indy 500 in 2020 after a spin in Turn 1 took him out of the race on lap 121.
“Of course I’m better than last year,” said Palou. “I’m super proud that we’re good on the ovals because I had no experience before. I feel good. I don’t think we’re making any crazy moves or anything like that. We just take turns learning and have fun. But there is a long way to go to reach these guys.
There is a long way to go, but it is ahead of all at the moment. Palou took the lead in points from teammate Dixon and leads the NTT INDYCAR SERIES 248-212 over the six-time defending NTT INDYCAR SERIES champion.
He will look to build his lead in the double title of the Chevrolet Dual in Detroit, the flagship races of the Chevrolet Detroit Grand Prix presented by Lear on June 12 and 13 at Belle Isle in Detroit.