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Alex Palou hints at return to Chip Ganassi Racing next season after winning finale Enea Bastianini wins Aragon MotoGP Grand Prix, stops Francesco Bagnaia winning streak

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MONTEREY, California. When Alex Palow smiled in the winners’ circle at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca, Chip Ganassi smiled. just a few steps away.

At first glance, the scene was unusually ordinary: Palu won his first race of 2022 at the season finale of the Monterey Grand Prix, and Ganassi naturally joined in the celebrations as owner of the No. 10 Dallara-Honda team.

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But there haven’t been many happy moments between Palu and Ganassi this season. Their relationship soured after a contract dispute erupted on July 12, with Palou revealing that he had signed with McLaren Racing after Ganassi announced a contract extension with the reigning series champion.

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All seemed forgotten after Sunday’s superb race, in which Palou led 67 of 95 laps and won by an astonishing 30.3812 seconds over Josef Newgarden.

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Has the relationship between the rider and the owner of the team improved, which seemed doomed to a permanent break after this season?

“Yeah, things are going well, so we’ll see what we can say, but yeah,” Palow told NBC Sports’ Kevin Lee after being asked if this was his last Top 10 race. “We’re going to enjoy the moment now and we’ll see what happens.”

Chip Ganassi leans into cockpit #10 to congratulate Alex Palou on winning the 2022 IndyCar Season Finale at Laguna Seca (Travis Hinkle/Penske Entertainment).

On Sunday, there were many other hints that things might surprisingly return to normal for the duo.

At a press conference following his fourth career NTT IndyCar Series win, Palu revealed that he and Ganassi had spoken on Sunday morning at Laguna Seca and also ahead of Sunday’s race in Portland.

“Yes, we’re talking,” Palow said. “So … “

Are you talking about the 2023 season?

“Obviously,” he said with a smile.

So is there a chance you will be racing again next year for the Chip Ganassi Racing team, which is currently involved in arbitration with Palou after filing a lawsuit against their driver?

“Yeah, we’ll see when I find out,” Palow said. “I wish I could tell you guys, ‘Hey, I’m doing this,’ but I don’t have an answer yet.

“Maybe tomorrow.”

It’s a drastic change of tone for the Spaniard, who on July 29 (three days after Ganassi filed the lawsuit) was adamant that he’d be with McLaren Racing next season to some extent.

In an interview Sunday morning with a small group of reporters, McLaren Racing CEO Zack Brown did not confirm that Palou would still be joining his organization.

With two IndyCar spots filled for next season, Brown said McLaren will need to decide by the end of this month whether Palu will drive a third car or Felix Rosenquist, who is being looked after by other teams.

“It’s still work,” Brown said. “I would say that I am very happy with Felix. He has done an excellent job this year. He was strong all year. Let’s see how it works. I would be very happy to see Felix in our car again. “We need to make a decision because I think another team (IndyCar) will pick him up.”

Asked how likely it is that the Palou situation will be resolved within the next three weeks, Brown replied: “It’s hard to say. I’d say the ball is on Chip’s side.

Ganassi has not spoken publicly about the situation since July 12, but had he commented on Palu’s performance on Sunday, the response would have been overwhelmingly positive.

After launch 11th Due to a six-place grid penalty for changing the engine, Palou made the most of the new horsepower and some of his car’s magical tweaks he discovered in Sunday’s morning warm-up.

“It was so hard driving today and all weekend here in Laguna,” he said. “The traction level is so low that you struggle all the time, so it never feels like you have a good car, even if you are leading so much. But compared to others, it was obviously the biggest margin (win) I’ve ever had. It was really good. The strategy and all the pit stops were really good too. Yes, it was amazing. I hope this is not the last car that is as good as it is today.”

The reporter noted that Palu finished more than 35 seconds ahead of the fastest-finishing Arrow McLaren SP Chevrolet (Rosenquist in fourth place).

“We’ll see what happens, but I would like to be 35 seconds ahead in every race,” Palu said with a smile. “Today everything went very well.”

Alex Palow celebrates his first IndyCar win Sunday at the Monterey Grand Prix at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca (Gary A. Vasquez/USA TODAY Sports Images).

Eight races after a contract dispute, the victory at Laguna Seca was the second podium for Palu (who was also congratulated by Ganassi after a third in Nashville last month). Despite all the external distractions, he fought for the championship before Portland and still managed to finish fourth in the points standings – not that that was much consolation.

“I wish I didn’t have the pressure of fighting for the championship and points in my head,” he said. “I love it. I was sad approaching this weekend. When I said that I was going to Portland, we would have a chance, I really thought that I had a chance, but it did not happen. I was very sad. Too bad that I couldn’t sleep last night because I was thinking about glasses, but this year it wasn’t like that, so yes, we will try again next year.

“I think we really didn’t make the most of the year we had. I knew that we would have such seasons. There was a bit more drama than we wanted, but we’re happy to finish here and hopefully we can start the same way next year.”

Wherever it is.

“They’re waiting to see what happens, as are all of you guys,” Palou said when asked about his state of mind after Sunday’s victory. “Unfortunately, I have nothing to share. I think everything is moving in the right direction. I don’t know if it will take one day, one week or one month, but I hope that everything will be resolved soon.

“I have nothing to say clearly, but everything is moving in the right direction.”

With a spectacular final lap overtake by Francesco Bagnaia, Enea Bastianini won the Aragon MotoGP Grand Prix and broke Bagnaia’s winning streak for four consecutive races. It was Bastianini’s fourth win of the season.

“I won on [Bagnaia] on the last lap, and this time it was possible to attack,” Bastianini told NBC Sports. “I was able to win this race and now we are going to Japan.”

Bastianini pursued Bagnaia throughout the race. On the final lap, Bagnaia was forced to balance his need for the 20 championship points that came from second place with his desire to become the third rider in MotoGP history to win five consecutive wins. . The need for points was even more important because championship leader Fabio Quartararo crashed on the first lap and couldn’t earn any at all.

Bagnaia entered the race, dropping Quartararo’s lead by 61 points in the final four rounds. He scored another 20 points at the Aragon Grand Prix and is now 10 points behind with five rounds remaining.

“It was great,” Bagnaia said. “I did my best and on the last lap it seemed like there was more grip. Enea did an incredible job all weekend. It was already known that he and Fabio were the fastest, and Fabio had an accident on the first lap.

“Anyway, I did my best and on the last lap I didn’t feel like I could overtake Enea because I already took too many risks on the previous lap so 20 points was important and that’s okay.”

The battle for the championship took a dramatic turn on the first lap. Returning to MotoGP after several hand surgeries, Marc Marquez was determined to play a decisive role.

In the first two corners of the race, Márquez overtook seven riders to take the lead. In turn three, his rear wheel slipped and Quartararo had nowhere to go. Quartararo clipped Márquez’s bike and he flew out of his Yamaha to finish last and score no points.

“It was really unfortunate,” Marquez told NBC Sports. “In turn three I had a moment where I lost the back and Fabio was very close as usual on the first lap and then I got contact.”

Marquez suffered significant injuries and was also forced to retire.

Ahead of the pack, Bagnaya was chasing the book of records.

Leading early, he momentarily lost the lead to Bastianini until that rider went into the corner too hard and pushed him. Bagnaia lashed out and reclaimed first place, but failed to sway the rider who would become his teammate in 2023 at Ducati. Bastianini followed Banaya for most of the race, but he knew the pass had to be flawless. Coming out of the corner halfway through the last lap, he completed the pass.

The two leaders crossed under the checkers with a difference of 0.042 seconds when Bagnaya drove up to the winner’s rear wheel.

Taking 1st-2nd places, Bastianini and Bagnaia won the manufacturer’s championship for Ducati.

The battle for the last podium was also decided late in the race when Alex Espargaro made an equally dramatic pass to Brad Binder with two to go. Jack Miller rounded out the top five as the three riders were separated by about eight tenths of a second.

With a broken finger, Espargaro has reduced the gap to 17 points and is also in contention for the title.

In Moto2, Rookie Pedro Acosta scored…


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