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.
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.
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.
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.”
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 spoke Sunday morning at Laguna Seca and before the race last Sunday 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.
Despite their current legal problems, everyone smiled at the winning driver and team owner.@IndyCar season finale at Laguna Seca.
— Nate Ryan (@nateryan) September 11, 2022
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 lead (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.”
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 outside distractions, he fought for the championship before Portland and still managed to finish fourth in the points standings—not that that was much of a 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.”
Start time, TV program guide: The IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship will wrap up the 2022 season this weekend. with Motul Petit Le Mans on Michelin Road Atlantawhich would also mean the end of the line for the DPi class.
The top-notch international Daytona Prototype category, launched in 2017, will be replaced by a new Grand Touring Prototype (GTP) class with LMDh cars that will install the Le Mans Bridge.
For the third time in four years, Acura will become the DPi champion as No. 10 Wayne Taylor Racing has a 19-point lead over No. 60 Meyer Shank Racing.
— #IMSA (@IMSA) September 9, 2022
Last year, WTR No. 10 advanced to the season finale by 19 points, but lost the title to No. 31 Cadillac Action Express.
WTR regulars Filipe Albuquerque and Ricky Taylor (who will be joined this weekend by Brandon Hartley in 10th) have picked up four series wins this season. The MSR duo of Tom Blomkvist and Oliver Jarvis (joined this weekend by Helio Castroneves) won the Rolex 24 at Daytona and have been runners-up five times this year.
Championship scenarios in the other four categories:
—GTD Pro: Points leaders Matt Campbell and Mathieu Jaminet will take the title by starting in their No. 9 Pfaff Motorsports Porsche 911 GT3 R.
– GTD: The top four teams are 140 points apart, with Roman De Angelis and the 27th Heart of Racing Aston Martin Vantage GT3 team leading by 45 points.
– LMP2: John Farano is in first place in the driver’s standings, 33 points ahead of Dwight Merriman and Ryan Dalziel. Team No. 52 PR1 Mathiasen Motorsports is 19 points ahead of Tower Motorsport No. 8 (Team Farano).
– LMP3: No. 54 CORE Autosports drivers John Bennett and Colin Brown are 83 points ahead of No. 74 Riley Motorsports Gar Robinson.
Because the 10-hour race requires an additional driver, several stars from other racing series have been added. In addition to Castroneves, Scott Dixon and Ryan Hunter-Reay will be the third drivers in Chip Ganassi Racing’s pair of Cadillacs.
Jimmie Johnson will also be making his final DPi start in the #48 Ally Cadillac with Mike Rockenfeller and Kamui Kobayashi. The Petit Le Mans could be the last start in the IMSA prototype for Johnson, who said limited inventory would likely keep him out of the GTP category in the Rolex 24 next year.
Here are the start times, lineup, schedule and TV info for IMSA Petit Le Mans at Road Atlanta (all times are ET):
Little Le Mans on Road Atlanta start time, schedule, TV information
When: Saturday 12:10 pm ET
race distance: Ten hours on a 2.54-mile, 12-turn track.
TELEVISION: Noon-3pm, NBC; 15:00-22:30 US network. Peacock, NBC sports app,as well as NBCSports.com will broadcast the event from flag to flag starting at noon. Lee Diffie and Dave Burns are play-by-play announcers with analysts Calvin Fish, Townsend Bell, James Hinchcliffe and Brian Till. The pit reporters are Kevin Lee, Hannah Newhouse, Dillon Welch and Matt Yocum.
IMSA.com Qualifier Live: Friday, 3:35 pm ET.
Radio IMSA: All sessions live on IMSA.com and RadioLeMans.com; The SiriusXM Race Live will begin on Saturday at noon (XM 207, Web/App 992).
Forecast: According to Wunderground.com, it is expected to be 63 degrees with an 85% chance of rain.