- 1st – Pato O’Ward, Arrow McLaren SP Chevy
- Taylor Kiel, Team Principal, Winning Car
- 2nd – Josef Newgarden, Penske Chevy
- 3rd -Alex Palou, Ganassi Honda
THE MODERATOR: We’ve been joined by our race winner, Pato O’Ward, driver of the No. 5 AMSP Chevy. We’ve also been joined by president of Arrow McLaren SP, Taylor Kiel. Congratulations. Pato, tell us how you’re feeling. You’re the first guy to win multiple races this season, and after finishing third yesterday, here you are, winner.
PATO O’WARD: Yeah, today was pretty good. I knew I had a great car. I made a stupid mistake in qualifying, didn’t transfer. I started in the back, so I knew it was going to be tough. I knew I had to fight my way literally to the front because I remember after the last pit stop Taylor was like, okay, this is the order, everybody has one pit stop, everybody is reset, so it’s like, well, we’re staying here unless we have a yellow and I can ship it.
So yellow came out, and that’s where I — I have a lot of faith in myself whenever the car is wiggling around. I know I’m very strong on cold tires, so I took advantage of it, got by people and got her done.
THE MODERATOR: Taylor, obviously an emotional weekend for you this weekend with Felix’s injury. Pato dedicated the race to him. Can you give us your perspective?
TAYLOR KIEL: Yeah, I think that’s really it. It says it all, emotional. When you see something like that happen to a race driver, it puts your stomach in your throat. First of all, we’re happy that Felix is okay and he’ll be back with us soon. Certainly bringing home a victory was top of mind in trying to help Felix’s recovery a little bit, but man, what a great effort from everybody, certainly from the men and women on the 7 car to get that thing fixed and ready to compete today.
But also the men and women on the 5 car, to make it a race-winning car. We had a great car today. Pato did what he needed to do. The team did what they needed to do. And when you execute like that, we’re tough to beat.
Certainly lows and highs, but we’re ending on a high and excited to get to Road America in a week.
THE MODERATOR: Have you had a chance to talk to Felix yet?
PATO O’WARD: No, I have not seen my phone, but I told Felix this was for him before the race started.
TAYLOR KIEL: He’s been texting me a lot. He said he’s never seen 10 laps like that in his life. He was certainly watching. He’s super excited for the team and ready to get back.
Q. Pato, pretty big weekend for Mexico sporting-wise, first Brandon Moreno becomes the first Mexican-born UFC champion last night and now this big win for you today. We all know your first win earlier this year was special, but what does it mean to you to win in Detroit in Chevrolet’s backyard and to dedicate this win to your teammate?
PATO O’WARD: Yeah, I think first off, I’m really happy that I got it because I truly wanted to get it for the — because yesterday was very mixed emotions. We were on the podium but everything was very focused on Felix being okay, and I consider Felix very close, and it’s not a cool feeling to see that because it can happen to any of us. Yeah, it’s not fun.
I was really pleased to hear that he was okay. Yeah, he left the hospital today. He’s feeling better. He’s sore. But yeah, I’m excited that I got this for the team, for him, and yeah.
Q. How was that dip in the fountain?
PATO O’WARD: Oh, my God. Water has never felt so good. It was like perfectly chilled.
Q. Pato, a lot of people are wondering, how do you get your tires warmer than others or how do you keep them so clean heading into a restart? What was your secret for that last climactic restart?
PATO O’WARD: Fast hands.
Q. What did your car feel like in those last few laps as you were —
PATO O’WARD: It was wiggly, but I felt like I still had life in the tire available, so I just had to be very — I knew I only had one chance to get every single guy. I couldn’t spend three chances on Dixon. It had to be one. So every time I would pull out or do something, I had to take the risk of pushing the braking zone or getting that mega exit to be able to get in front of them.
But I feel like — I was very happy with how I executed it.
Q. Several people I talked to said what stands out about you, at least that they’ve seen, is once you get there like you were just talking about, you do strike, you don’t necessarily delay. Where does that come from, that aggression, whatever you want to call it?
PATO O’WARD: The problem is whenever you let people step around over you, then it becomes a habit. You need to — I mean, people know that I’m not here to be fifth or sixth. They know I’m here to win. I’m pretty sure that’s the message that we portrayed today.
Q. You’re aggressive, you got two guys in two turns, I think four or five guys in four or five laps and wheel to wheel with Josef. I think you guys touched there; is that correct?
PATO O’WARD: Yeah, he was moving me on to the marbles. He knew where to put me in order for me not to be able to get him, but I didn’t move, so we kind of both went into each other, I guess. That straightaway isn’t really straight.
Yeah, it was a good battle, I think. I think it makes it more exciting whenever there’s a little rubbin’ rub.
Q. How do you balance that? Like you’re aggressive and you go for it? How do you not go over the line?
PATO O’WARD: Yeah, I didn’t forget the words that Taylor said. He’s like, okay, this is the caution, everybody is going to stack up, lap cars are going to go, blah blah blah. If you have a chance, take it, but if you don’t, keep the championship in mind. But in my head, the two guys that I’m fighting the championship with are in front of me, and I was not going to be pleased if we ended behind them, especially if we had a restart and we were all together, so if I had the chance I was going to strike. I just had to make sure every strike wasn’t like, Oh, am I going to get it? No, it had to be like boom, definite. Once you’re on the inside, it’s yours.
Yeah, I mean, I think they were very clean passes. I don’t think I put anybody in jeopardy in ways of hey, I screwed your race or anything. I felt like I did it very clean. I knew I was racing around very professional drivers, very clean, hard racers, Josef, Colton, Palou, definitely on, Graham, some of them have been racing many years. Some of us have been in INDYCAR very little, but these guys are pros. I was around people that you can get within less than an inch and race.
Q. Were you a Juan fan? You fact like him, you drive a little bit like him, you’ve got the confidence of him.
PATO O’WARD: I know Juan. I feel like we get along really well. Maybe that’s something Taylor can catch on. I was a little too young in Juan’s time. I was a big Montoya fan when he was in INDYCAR after he was in Formula 1, but I started really watching —
Q. After NASCAR?
PATO O’WARD: Yeah, I was really watching all the races until maybe I was like seven, eight years old when I really somewhat understood kind of the Formula 1 and INDYCAR racing. But Juan was in like Formula 1 and stuff in 2004, 2003, and then he was an INDYCAR champion the year I was born. Yeah, I don’t think I remember much about back then.
Q. Zach said at Indy that you know how important it is for the team to win the INDYCAR championship. How has that message been conveyed to you?
PATO O’WARD: They have given me an opportunity that many people would kill for, and I want to be the one that gives them their first championship. Yeah, I mean, there’s not much more to say than that. I have so much faith in this group of people. They have my back, I have theirs.
In a business like this you consistently have to show that you are capable and still have it, and I feel like it’s races like these where everyone, that little extra that you may put into something will always be given because they know that you’ll be out there giving it everything you have, to give them what they deserve.
Q. One win got you a test. What does two wins get you?
PATO O’WARD: I don’t know. I know what a championship will get me, though.
PATO O’WARD: Maybe I share whenever I win the championship. Hopefully I win it. That’s going to be the goal for sure.
Q. So now everybody has got to wait?
PATO O’WARD: Yes. I’ll post a picture.
Q. Do you change your firesuit before you come in or do you come in wet?
PATO O’WARD: Oh, I’m wet.
Q. Obviously a lot is going on this weekend. To end on this high note, how does that make the team feel?
TAYLOR KIEL: Well, I think it’s the right medicine for the issue that we had. Obviously Felix’s crash is shocking. It’s shocking to watch. It makes everybody sick to their stomach. To rebound like we did, it’s huge, and it’s a good boost to morale for the group. It’s a boost to morale for Felix. I think he’s very excited for his teammate, and it’s the least we can do to try to just bring this group back together and refocus after an event like that that just kind of shakes everybody.
Q. How did you guys get to Oliver? Was it because he was here and he was familiar with the team and the car?
TAYLOR KIEL: Both, yeah, but Oliver is a good driver, and I think that in a situation like that, it’s not about evaluating or finding the next Pato O’Ward, it’s about calming the waters, and I think Oliver was somebody we were familiar with, we knew he could just hop in and get on with it. We had his belts and his measurements and his seats and he was here and all those things, so it just made a very difficult situation less difficult.
Q. Everybody was here until 1:00, 2:00 in the morning?
TAYLOR KIEL: Yeah 2:30 I think the group left.
Q. So everybody gets pep back in their step after, I suppose?
TAYLOR KIEL: I hope so. I think probably by the time they get to Fort Wayne tonight on the way back to Indy, it’ll be — hopefully we’ve got some people that are good to drive tonight.
It’s been a heck of a weekend.
Q. What do you make of you guys have come so far in two years?
TAYLOR KIEL: It’s crazy. You’ve got to sit back and peek your head above water sometimes. We’re grinding so hard to try to be the best team in the paddock, and I think when you’re working that hard and you’re so focused on the goal, it’s hard to see how far you’ve come.
It’s moments like this where I try to allow myself to take a step back and look around and go, man, we’re close. We can compete every weekend. When the chips are down and we’re P6, we’ve still got a shot to win.
It doesn’t come without a lot of hard work and a lot of great support from our partners, but we’re knocking on the door. I don’t think we’re there yet. We’ve still got a long way to go. But we’ve got a shot and that’s all we can ask for?
Q. And you’re wet, as well?
TAYLOR KIEL: I am, yeah.
Q. Taylor, you have one good car but you have a perfect day now with Pato. Do you feel like you can apply that strategy that works or is it just faith in him?
TAYLOR KIEL: Well, I think we can only take strategy so far, and at a certain point the driver takes over, and I think that’s exactly what we saw today. We got ourselves as far as we could go with strategy, which was P6, and we got the yellow that we needed, and after that it was all up to the driver.
It’s a mix of both. It’s certainly a team effort, no doubt.
Q. Taylor, can you explain how well Felix’s car stood up to a really hard hit and just go over what the safety features did and how much he owes Dallara for building a car that’s really tough?
TAYLOR KIEL: Well, I think a lot of things. The car certainly did its job. Like I said earlier, you watch that replay on TV and it’s like, shocking. You take into account the speed and the angle of impact and those types of things. The tub held up extremely well. The aeroscreen did exactly what it needed to do. Certainly all of the safety equipment that Felix was wearing and the safety of the track, obviously there was tires everywhere, but the walls held up, the tires held up. There was only minor repairs.
It really was a wonderful job by everything in and around that accident that kept him okay, and to see him literally go to the hospital just to double check, that’s kudos to anybody that’s involved in and around safety in INDYCAR.
Q. Two years ago at this track, at this race, your career was at a crossroads. You had just signed with Red Bull, didn’t know what your INDYCAR career was going to be. Any time over the last two years that you’ve doubted where you’re going to be?
PATO O’WARD: For sure. My career has almost ended at least four or five times, so honestly if everyone says, oh, it’s easy to make it, it hasn’t been hard enough for you then, because it’s such a tough business to make it. When you do it, you have to continue proving yourself for the next 20 years if you want to have a long career.
But yeah, obviously there’s been very high and very low moments. But like I said, these guys gave me an opportunity, and I told them I will get you your wins and I will get you your results, so I hope my bosses are proud of me.
But we’ve got a long way to go. I love the group of people that I work with. I think they’re some of the best in the business for sure. I’m very excited to see what we can accomplish in the next years.
Q. Pato, second win of your INDYCAR career, now second in just five races or so. I know you were so incredibly excited after that first one that you got in Texas. Can you describe a little bit about how this win feels different like from a career or season perspective? I know it’s not the first one, but maybe in some way it’s even more validating?
PATO O’WARD: I was always like telling Taylor, man, at Texas we really had to work for it. It didn’t just land on us. I feel like today we fought for it even harder. I feel like those races maybe them taste so sweet because we truly worked together as a team to get it done.
When it’s such a competitive series like INDYCAR, I don’t care what anybody says, there is nothing like this in the world. Nothing, nothing like this in the world. It’s so competitive. The cars are beasts. They’re physical, they’re fast, they’re loud. They’re just hard to control.
I feel like that’s what really makes the win feel like you just accomplished something really cool.
Q. Kind of a similar but maybe different question for you, Taylor, from the team’s perspective what does a second win in a season do compared to just getting one in a year?
TAYLOR KIEL: I think one is relieving and two is validating. It shows you that what you’re doing is sustainable, and that’s something that’s been in our narrative for a long time. We’ve been a flash-in-the-pan team for a long time. We sneak out a win here or there and we’re happy to be there.
It’s not the case anymore. Our goal is to compete at the front all the time and win championships, and for us to do that you have to win three, four races a season. By the way, you also have to finish in the top 5 like all the time.
That’s what we’re aiming to do, and that’s what we’ve proven that we can do, so that’s the goal.
Q. You mentioned a couple minutes ago that you still feel like there’s a ways for this team to go. Is part of that — I know we’ve seen Felix up and down the season before his crash on Saturday. Do you feel like a lot of what we’ve seen from him just comes down to continuing to onboard him with this team and get him to a level of comfort that Pato is with Arrow McLaren SP?
TAYLOR KIEL: Yeah, Pato has got a year head start. I feel like the car we produce is very difficult to drive, but it’s fast. I think that we’re working to make that better for both drivers, and there’s no boundaries on that. Whatever Felix needs, he’s going to get, and likewise with Pato. There’s no, hey, here’s the car we’ve got and it is what it is. It’s a continual process, and we’re working towards it.
I think if Felix was here he’d tell you that the car is coming to him, and he feels better about where it is today than it was in say St. Pete.
We’re never satisfied with results or how good the car is to drive or otherwise. It’s nose down and we’ll continue to work to make it better.
Q. I think this got brought up in Texas when you guys won your first race of the year. For so many years we’ve tossed around this team in INDYCAR the big three. I imagine for both of you this might signal the end of us referring to that without you guys included.
PATO O’WARD: That has been the plan. I don’t think it’s my place to say, though.
TAYLOR KIEL: Well, I think being a part of the big three means that we’re a part of the championship hunt and we’re regular contenders and we’re winning races. If it’s the big three or the big 15 or the big one, it doesn’t matter to me, as long as we’re doing that.
That’s what we’re doing now, and I aim to keep it up. If we want to call it whatever we want to, that’s fine, but my goal is to be first at the end of the year.
THE MODERATOR: Thanks to Taylor and Pato for joining us.
THE MODERATOR: Good afternoon, everyone. We are joined today by our second-place finisher Josef Newgarden, driver of the No. 2 Hitachi Team Penske Chevy. Josef, obviously a disappointing finish there at the end. Tell us more about your day.
JOSEF NEWGARDEN: Yeah, just our breaking day for sure, finished second, and yeah, just kind of was what it was there at the end. Felt like we had a good car and just didn’t work our way strategy-wise and some of the times that we had to pit where we thought we had to pit because a yellow was probably going to come out, I think it all just didn’t play into our favor.
Yeah, it is what it is. Move on to the next, but felt like we had a good car. Really proud of our team. I thought they were really resilient this weekend, which is important, and it’s a great job for our partners at Team Chevy to get a one-two here, so pretty stoked for those guys and certainly our partner Hitachi and everybody from Penske Corp that was here supporting us.
Q. Last year after St. Pete you were saying Pato is one of the future stars of INDYCAR, in fact you said you were already a fan of him, he was already a star at that time and how clean he’s driven you, now you guys have had some battles this year at Texas and then today. What’s he done differently compared to last year to this year when you’ve been racing him?
JOSEF NEWGARDEN: I don’t know that he’s done anything different, but he’s — I think he’s picked up where he left off last year. They were in the fight last year and they’ve got strong cars certainly at McLaren. They were in the fight pretty much all the way through last season. I think you’re seeing a lot of the same.
Q. How do you think yourself and the team can bounce back from this going into Road America next week?
JOSEF NEWGARDEN: Well, I’m not sure we have to really bounce back. It’s just we were fast today, hopefully fast next weekend, and hopefully it all works out.
Q. You’ve been close to a win a couple times this year, just can’t quite get there. What is it going to take for you and Team Penske to finally get a victory this year?
JOSEF NEWGARDEN: Well, if I had the answer I’d be doing it but I’m sure it’ll happen at some point. It just hasn’t aligned. Sometimes you get that. You just don’t get everything to line up perfectly. I think we’ve got a lot of the ingredients right. I don’t think we really need to change much, just keep doing our thing.
Q. Do you feel the team is taking too risky a calls or anything like that where the cautions could catch you out?
JOSEF NEWGARDEN: Nope, nope, I wouldn’t change a thing. Look, you can’t predict these races. You can look like a hero or a zero pretty easily in this sport, so yeah, I would ask anyone to change anything. I think they’re doing all the right stuff, it’s just not worked out.
Q. Josef, can you describe just how much of a challenge it was for you just to hold off Colton and Alex at the end there? Those tires looked cooked and one little mistake and you’d probably go from second to fourth.
JOSEF NEWGARDEN: Yeah, they were fried. I think probably the worst part was we had to put about 10 extra laps on those tires because we thought the caution was going to come out in that first stint around lap 18 I think we pitted, and you just can’t risk missing the caution. If you miss the caution, you’re just hosed. It just completely ruins your day.
I think that compromised us more than anything. Then we had to run 25 laps on used reds, so that was not ideal, and then the cautions bunching us up probably hurt us, as well, just brought the whole field back to it. I think we probably could have held Colton off potentially if we just would have run cleanly to the end there. But that’s kind of impossible to say. I’d have to see that play out. I think, yeah, just the cautions and the potential caution is more of what hindered us today.
Q. You and Pato touched on a pretty quick section of the racetrack. I just wanted to get your thoughts on how you saw that. Was it just good hard racing or was it a bit on the limit?
JOSEF NEWGARDEN: Definitely I think on the limit, but I think it was good hard racing. There’s a kink on the back straight so it’s not perfectly straight, so to be fighting side by side, I think you probably get a little bit of contact like that. It’s not completely abnormal down in that section of the track. But he was coming like a freight train. My tires were cooked, and he was having great drives off the corner, as you saw.
I think that’s what kind of did us in. It almost did us in with Alex, too. Thankfully we were able to hold on to second, but yeah, just hard racing.
Q. My question is the fact that it’s been two years now since we’ve been at Belle Isle. Has the track changed or evolved in relation to the tire wear that you’re getting on either the reds or blacks?
JOSEF NEWGARDEN: If anything the reds were quite a bit more durable than ’19. I think if you guys cast your thoughts back to ’19, they were diabolically bad for tire wear. You didn’t want to be on them for more than two laps in the race. Certainly they were more resilient today. You could almost make a used set work. A new set would have been preferred, but you could definitely make a used set work for I would say 15, 20 laps. 25 is pushing it, but Firestone made a change and definitely made them more durable, but I think the fact that they are more fragile than the blacks makes it interesting to watch. I think as a spectator it’s probably more fun to see that mix-up and that dynamic than them being just both really durable and just a little time offset.
That’s what you set here. You get quite a bit of spread. But a lot less spread than what it was in ’19.
Q. Looking back through this season, can you consider this isn’t a bad one, or can you consider a successful one?
JOSEF NEWGARDEN: Well, we haven’t completed it yet, so I don’t know how to look at it yet completely.
I think looking at half of it, it seems okay. It’s not exactly what we wanted, but it’s not too bad. We’re in the hunt. But we’ve got halfway to go, so a lot of racing to hopefully still be in this fight.
THE MODERATOR: Josef, good luck next weekend at Road America.
THE MODERATOR: We have been joined by our third-place finisher, Alex Palou, driver of the No. 10 The American Legion Honda for Chip Ganassi Racing. This is your fourth podium of 2021.
ALEX PALOU: Nice.
THE MODERATOR: Tell us about your day and the racing there at the end.
ALEX PALOU: Oh, that was exciting. That was a really, really nice — I enjoyed a lot the race, to be honest. We struggled a lot yesterday, but today it was amazing the way we come back, and being able to fight until the end, that’s what racing is all about, wheel by wheel, and it was amazing the overtakes we were having with Colton and Josef there. I couldn’t really get Josef, but yeah, we’ll get them next time.
THE MODERATOR: I do have a little bit of bad news for you in that you’ve given up the points lead to Pato but only by one.
ALEX PALOU: Why is it bad news then? We’re still there. I mean, at the end you have to look until now who has been the best, and that’s Pato for sure and then it’s us.
We’ve been doing a lot. We’ve been working really hard to get me up to speed. I think the team has been giving me a race car to win every weekend, which that’s awesome coming into a new weekend and knowing that you’re going to be able to fight for the wins, that’s amazing. It’s just all about me working with myself, and yeah, as I said, it’s amazing what the 10 car did from yesterday to today, and we’re going to keep on growing and keep on trying to win.
Q. I was curious, besides the better starting position today, what were you able to do today as opposed to yesterday as opposed to what you learned from yesterday, and what do you think went right for you today?
ALEX PALOU: Yeah, I think overall we just had a better performance everywhere. We had a better performance in one, two laps as we saw in qualifying, and also during the race I was able to go really fast, get the tires to work and fight with the guys. Yeah, I think we just improved overall. I think it’s a really tough track to come here and just have one hour of practice. I was not super comfortable with the car yesterday, but Julian, my engineer, and all the groups of engineers that I have in the 10 car gave me the right car today to be able to have the confidence and push forward today.
Q. What do you put down your momentum and consistency to so far this season?
ALEX PALOU: The team. The team I have around me that just gives me the tools to make it happen. It’s been awesome to come to every weekend knowing that I have a fight for a win, and yeah, it’s all because of the team. I have really good teammates that I can learn from. Marcus getting the first win yesterday was amazing not only for him but for the 8 crew that it’s been — they’ve been fighting all year, but they had some bad luck, and yesterday finally they got it. Scott, Jimmie, yeah, I just have a really good team around me that I just have to focus on myself and try to move forward.
Q. In terms of the circuit itself, obviously it’s an extremely bumpy kind of track. Was that playing on your mind at all over the last few days, or did you just want to get the job done?
ALEX PALOU: Yeah, it’s really bumpy. Like if you can imagine a really bumpy place, you’re not even close to that. Like it’s super bumpy. I tried to imagine that. I tried to say, okay, Alex, it’s going to be really bumpy, get ready for it. I was mentally ready. One lap, and I was like, oh, my God, I cannot race INDYCARs here. (Laughter).
Yeah, having only one hour, it’s tough. It’s tough to get up to speed to attack the corners without crashing because if you crash in the fifth lap you’re done.
Yeah, it’s a hard balance and it’s really tough, but it’s the situation we are in now, and it’s fine, we just have to deal with it. But yeah, it’s nice when you get up to speed, but the first free practice I did, I was like oh, my God, that’s going to be tough. But yeah, we made it to the podium. I’m really happy with the work we did, and yeah, cannot wait to come back next year and try and win this race.
Q. Right before Jimmie spun on about lap 54, you were about 10 seconds behind. When that came, what was the feelings inside the car? Did you feel like you had something for Josef and Colton at the time to maybe one this thing?
ALEX PALOU: To be honest, on pure pace I think Colton was probably the strongest. Yeah, I don’t think I had — I think Josef was like 10 seconds in front of me, so I don’t think I could have got to Josef. Maybe yeah because he was on used reds, so maybe he got — by the end of the race he could have got a really big deg, but that didn’t happen.
Yeah, I was happy. I was just happy to be able to fight. When Pato came by, I was like, wow, what is he doing, does he have tire warmers or something because he was the only one able to do that. I think we have to figure out what that team is doing and try and do ourselves that for the next couple of races.
But yeah, that was a fun battle, and I think we did the most we could. Maybe Josef if I had three, four more laps, but we didn’t have it. So P3 is a really good result.
Q. As we hit essentially the halfway point of the season, you’re one point down and second in the points. Is this what you envisioned when you joined Ganassi? Have you exceeded your expectations so far?
ALEX PALOU: Yeah, I obviously wanted to see myself P1, but P2 and only one point off P1, it’s really good. Learning new tracks this year, doing new races that are crazy like Detroit and the Indy 500, getting to experience the full race and battling with experienced guys, so it’s been awesome. It’s been a lot of learning, but finally we’re going to Road America. I’ve been there. We’ve been really competitive there, so I cannot wait. Mid-Ohio and those places that I’ve been there, I’m really looking forward because that’s where I think we can have a plus.
Q. These guys have been racing up front between Colton and Josef and Pato, you guys are all under the age of 30. Is this what you envisioned as the future for the INDYCAR series for the next decade?
ALEX PALOU: I don’t know. Hopefully. We’ll see. I think over the years in INDYCAR we saw some really young drivers that are really good one or two years and then the veterans are always there, so we’ve got to keep the consistency up. That’s how you can run up front in the championships. I’m trying to learn as much as possible from the man Scott. Hopefully I can make it happen, but it’s not easy. It’s not easy.
Q. How tough is it when you get to the end of the race, like that restart, how tough is it to manage because it’s a very bumpy track and you have all the other guys to fight off. How tough is it mentally and physically for a driver?
ALEX PALOU: Yeah, it was really hard, especially the last restart, because the tire temperature was really low. We got pickup. When I say we, I mean all the field except for Pato, and we couldn’t really run aggressively. As soon as you run aggressively I had some big moments over the bumps getting into a corner, so that was really tough. I didn’t really enjoy that until I came with — I arrived to Colton and to Josef and then we started battling. We had let’s say the same issues, but Pato was already — he lifted, so he was way in front of us.
Yeah, it’s challenging because if you’ve done like 65 laps, it’s really hard, but yeah, it’s always nice when you can have really close battles.
Q. Obviously everyone was talking about the heat and how tough it was going to be physically for these two races. Now that you have been through it, was it as tough as you probably expected or even tougher or maybe a bit easier than you expected?
ALEX PALOU: I was really a cool suit, so that’s maybe why my life was easier. I saw some guys that didn’t run it and they were like purple. I guess it was really hot for them, but for me it was fine. It was really challenging physically, but it is what it is, and it’s the same for everybody.
I think that’s good as a series that you can make a difference physically, so yeah, you always think you’re ready, but you always want to be even more prepared.
Q. As you studied Pato’s restart there, especially at the end, was it so much he had clean tires or did it seem like his tires were warmer? I talked to a couple drivers and they seem to have some kind of technique that they’re using. What stood out about it?
ALEX PALOU: I think it’s basically what we’ve been seeing all year, that they were able to switch the tires on in one lap, and that’s why they get so many poles — well, he got two, and he’s always up there on qualifying. But that’s also why he had to do an extra stop in Indy road course, in St. Pete. There’s a compromise, right? It worked really good this weekend, and we need to find that compromise, but we think we know what it is now. Not before but now. So we’re going to try, and if we can get that right, it’s going to be really fun.
Q. Pato when he has a shot, he takes it. You do, too. Where does that come from, not just to get up on a guy but go for it? Where does that come from, and do you agree he has that about him?
ALEX PALOU: Yeah, I think he’s really aggressive but really a good aggressiveness. He’s not crazy. He doesn’t dive bomb from like 50 meters away, so he’s really good. You know when he’s behind and he has a better car that he’s going to overtake you, which I think we’ve been really good on overtaking, as well. But the thing is if there’s a driver that can switch on the tires because driving skills are because of the setup, then that driver looks like outstanding compared to all others. I think he overtook like six cars in two laps, which that’s crazy, and we were all fighting against the walls, not trying to spin or to crash and he was like running fast times.
Yeah, we’ll see. We’ll see. But it’s been super fun to battle with him and with Colton, as well.
Q. The value of being the points leader heading into Road America which I recall last year was one of your better tracks?
ALEX PALOU: Yeah, it’s always good to go to Road America already being good on points. Yeah, I cannot wait to go to Road America. I’ve been waiting for Road America since I left Road America last year. It’s probably my favorite track. We got the first podium there. I love that track, and also Mid-Ohio. So the two races that we have now are going to be awesome for the 10 car, and hopefully we can get a double win.
Q. This was another American Legion race for you this weekend. You had one of the former national directors of the legion with you. What’s it like when you get people like that that are part of the weekend for you?
ALEX PALOU: It’s impressive. It’s impressive, to be honest. I told you already at the Indy road course that for me it’s amazing, especially coming from Europe where you don’t have that kind of people or — yeah, let’s say, or organizations. It’s been awesome. We had two podiums already with them.
Unfortunately yesterday was not a good day for us, but hopefully they are really happy. They were super happy because for some of them it was the first race that they attended, and they were enjoying it a lot.
Q. Do you think you would have been able to make more passes if INDYCAR had swept the track during one of those yellow periods? Is that what was kind of holding you back, making you dive in on Josef?
ALEX PALOU: You like the tricky questions, huh? Should I be a good boy or a bad boy? (Laughter.)
ALEX PALOU: You want the bad one?
Q. We’ve never seen you say anything bad in your life yet.
ALEX PALOU: No? You’re not going to see me. (Laughter.)
No, I can get in trouble just for — but yeah, to be honest, yeah, and yesterday, as well, we were stopped for like, I don’t know, 40 minutes on a red flag and we came back and it was like all marbles and it was like, come on, why.
I guess it’s easy to sweep an oval and not so easy to sweep a street course, so maybe that’s why we should understand. I don’t, but yeah, for sure, if we didn’t have those marbles, overtakes would have been a lot easier. We would have seen so many lockups because as soon as you were running off line, even on the inside a little bit, it was suddenly big pickups and you would spend like two, three corners to take those pickups again, so yeah, for the next time it would be nice if we could get the track sweep.
Q. If you would, please, put the weekend into perspective for us. Did you enjoy it? Was it difficult? If you were to come back here in a week or two, would you do anything different?
ALEX PALOU: Did I enjoy it today? Yes. Did I enjoy it until yesterday? No. I didn’t enjoy it. When you are not fast and you know you have to be fast because you have a great car and a great team, obviously, and you cannot really push, you never enjoy it. You never enjoy running back there.
We said, okay, this is what we have, it’s all right, we’ll learn. We had 70 laps yesterday. We sit down, we were looking at everything we could do for the car, everything we could do on driving, and we went on qualifying blind. We passed on Q2 like P6 like on the limit, and suddenly we were fighting for the pole.
Yeah, I would have said the curve we made since the beginning of the weekend was amazing, and I did enjoy a lot today qualifying and the race and the last lap. It’s always good to be here talking with you guys because that means it was a good weekend, so yeah, looking forward to the next ones.
Q. Pato got by two cars in the first two turns. You were one of them. Did you see him coming? Josef called him a freight train.
PATO O’WARD: Hi Alex!
ALEX PALOU: We’re having like a good discussion and we are relaxed. I know you won, but it’s my moment now.
Yeah, I saw him coming like really fast, so I was like, yeah, what can I do. I was like, you’re not going to get the inside, and I was like, you’re not going to get the outside, either. Like that’s crazy, and he went, and yeah, he did it.
PATO O’WARD: You’re very clean. I’m giving you a compliment.
ALEX PALOU: I don’t want. It’s my moment.
No, to be fair, it was a close battle. I saw him coming. I saw when he overtook Scott and then he overtook Graham, and he was like, oh, it’s my turn there. Yeah, I was just waiting, and I knew that they were really good and really strong on restarts and starts the first couple of laps, but yeah, as I said, he just got it.
Q. This is the eighth race, there’s eight to go, maybe nine. Do you think this championship battle is sort of shaping up, or is there more to be heard from guys like Dixon and such?
ALEX PALOU: Oh, yeah, for sure, 100 percent. We’re going to hear more from them, from Josef, from lots of guys that are going to be, yeah, coming really fast.
It’s not over, but it’s a good start for sure. Like eight races, we’re P2, it’s amazing, only one point. And yeah, hopefully we can have a good battle, both of us. I know he’s going to be really exciting driver, which I know, and I’m going to be more calm, but yeah, it’s going to be a good end to the season for sure.
Q. Is this the most physical track you’ve been on?
ALEX PALOU: It’s tough to say. Yesterday, yeah, it was super physical when you’re struggling and you’re fighting with the car so much and with the other cars you struggle so much with the heat, it’s a street course, bumpy. So yeah, probably, and especially doing two races, it’s really tough.