Alex Palou Press Conference - BITNILE_com Grand Prix of Portland - By_ Joe Skibinski

IndyCar: Champion Palou Portland Post-Race Interview

Two-time NTT IndyCar Series Champion Alex Palou met with the media after the GP of Portland IndyCar race Sunday.

THE MODERATOR: Obviously joined now by the 2023 NTT INDYCAR SERIES Champion in Alex Palou. Tremendous run, obviously, for his second win here at Portland International Raceway, leading 69 of the 110 laps, driving the No. 10, the American Legion Honda for Chip Ganassi Racing.

Second win, as mentioned, here in Portland, fifth of the season. Ninth career win. Ninth podium of this year, 24th of his career. Five wins, nine podiums, 12 top-5s, 16 top-10s. It’s been an incredible season. Congratulations.

ALEX PALOU: Thank you.

THE MODERATOR: Glad to get this out of the way now and not have to worry about it next week?

ALEX PALOU: Yeah, absolutely, obviously. As you describe it, it’s been an amazing season. We just had fast cars everywhere, and we’ve been able to maximize our results even on the bad weekends, and to finish here at Portland with a win feels amazing.

We have one race left that we won there last year, so feeling pretty confident. And obviously, yeah, clinching the championship makes you feel a little bit more relaxed obviously.

THE MODERATOR: The secret for this win today? Chip was saying you called this, you said you were going to win this race today.

ALEX PALOU: No, honestly, I thought we had a really, really fast car. I would say fast six, the result we got there wasn’t what we could have achieved. I didn’t think we extracted 100% from it, so I knew after warmup that we could go for it and win the race.

So we didn’t really go on safe mode of just staying with the 9 because we thought we could win the race today, and we did. So happy that everything worked out.

THE MODERATOR: Questions, please.

Q. Can you talk about your second stint on red tires? Did you plan how many laps you wanted to go, something like that?

ALEX PALOU: Yeah, we knew we wanted to do at least 18 laps, and it was right about the time that the 9 and the 6 caught us where we didn’t want to lose the lead.

We could have been a little more aggressive and just be, like, from P-3 from three laps after to just have a bit more space, but we didn’t. We just wanted to be a bit conservative on that call. I think it was the right call, but we had traffic at the same time.

So, yeah, it was, I would say, the stint that I suffered the most on reds.

Q. (Off microphone.)

ALEX PALOU: I was struggling on tires, so I just wanted to compensate the time that I was losing on tires with the push-to-pass. I knew we were a bit ahead of the 9, the 3, and the 15 at that time, so that’s why I was pressing a little bit more than I wanted.

Q. Now with the second title, INDYCAR title, do you think you have already overtaken Alonso and Sainz in popularity?

ALEX PALOU: No (laughing). No, for sure not. Yeah, I mean, it’s a different level, but it’s okay. I mean, I prefer two INDYCAR Championships than popularity and Instagram followers, so yeah.

Q. (Off microphone.)

ALEX PALOU: I haven’t checked. I haven’t had time yet, but yeah, I’m sure they will.

Q. (Off microphone.)

ALEX PALOU: Yeah, that’s true.

Q. By extending with Ganassi, as Chip confirmed, does that mean you’re focused on a long INDYCAR SERIES career, or do you harbor any thoughts of switching to F1 at some point down the road?

ALEX PALOU: No, I said it many times that it was not my fully focus. Then when an opportunity came, I had to go for it, I felt.

At the same time I know I’m not 21 or 19. I’m already 26, which is good. I’m not saying I’m old, but I mean, it’s not that I’m super young.

So next year I’ll be 27. If an opportunity comes in the future, which is like really, really small chances, I’ll think about it for sure, 100%.

But I’m happy honestly. As long as I keep on winning championships and races or battling for championships I think I’ll have a great career.

Q. Team chemistry is always paramount when it comes to INDYCAR racing. Just the dynamic you and Barry have built over the years that’s cultivated to the two championships. Of course, Barry is not here. How special is it to have somebody like him to be a part of this journey you’re continuing to do so far?

ALEX PALOU: Yeah, honestly he’s the director of the 10 car. Not only he does — he is managing the whole team across the four cars and even other series, but he’s the director, and he calls pretty much everything on the 10 car.

So he’s a very big piece on our stand, but unfortunately, he couldn’t be here. Everybody is really sad that he’s not here, but I think he’s even more sad.

He’s recovering well. We know that. He’s a strong guy, and hopefully he’ll be back with us very soon.

Q. I know Chip told us that you said post-race you wanted to win this going away and clinch the championship with a victory. Can you take us through a little bit how different winning and clinching this championship has felt this afternoon compared to when you did it two years ago?

ALEX PALOU: Honestly I knew we had a really, really fast car, especially after warmup. I knew throughout all weekend, but especially after warmup I felt really, really good.

Then Chip, before the race we did a meeting, and he was very aggressive on telling us that we had to win. So I was, like, all right, let’s win then.

So before jumping into the car he was with me. He said, All right, let’s have a good and a clean race, just manage your position.

I was, like, No, Chip, you told us to win, so I’ll go ahead, and I think we can win it.

It was honestly one of those races where I knew we had everything we needed to win the race, that we had something else that could separate us from our competitors. It was true, and we were able to maximize it.

Q. How important was it for you to seal this championship and not let it get to that finale and not let Dixon just continue to hang around?

ALEX PALOU: Can you repeat that?

Q. How important for you was it to get this championship sealed and not let Scott continue to hang around and for things to get any closer than they already had?

ALEX PALOU: Yeah, I mean, I always say that he’s my obviously biggest fear. I think he’s one of the best INDYCAR drivers, if not the best, that we ever had.

Not only that, but he also has the best team around, which is the same as I have. So it’s tough because we couldn’t really hide anything or we couldn’t really — I mean, like in the 10 car we couldn’t really have an advantage on him because we were sharing everything. He knew what was going on.

So obviously he pushed a lot the last couple of weeks, couple of months; but I’m glad that we were able to seal it and especially with a win.

Q. I know you’d been telling us for several weeks now that you would announce your future after the end of the season. Chip seemed to have done that for you.

ALEX PALOU: Can you repeat?

Q. I know you’ve been telling us that you would be announcing your future at the end of the season, and Chip kind of did that on the TV broadcast for us saying you would be back in a CGR car. To have that out there and public, I’m sure you’re happy to be coming back here. What’s that all like for you to know you’ve got several years seemingly ahead of you at Chip Ganassi Racing?

ALEX PALOU: Yeah, I said I will — obviously after Laguna I will try and speak a little bit more, but yeah, I’m going to enjoy as much as possible the win from today, the win from the championship, and then we’ll see.

I started actually my first page on the book, so that thing is going well. I mean, I don’t really have anything else to say now. There’s no news. There’s nothing else I could tell you now that is exciting or anything, but I will.

Q. Next week at same time the INDYCAR season is over relatively early. Can we see you in another category in a race car for the rest of the year, maybe in Chip’s team?

ALEX PALOU: After the season?

Q. No, after Laguna Seca.

ALEX PALOU: Oh, no, no. We actually have a ton of work with HPD and also Chevy and INDYCAR on just making all the tests for the 2024 car, the engine. We have a ton of tests.

I think Wednesday after Laguna I have already some testing, so I’ll be busier than a normal year, which is super exciting. I love it.

Apart from that, I’m also having a baby, so it will be an extra busy offseason.

Q. So no race in Indianapolis after Laguna Seca?

ALEX PALOU: No, no. Hopefully, no. Yeah, maybe next year. I’ll push for next year.

THE MODERATOR: Congratulations on the little one on the way.

ALEX PALOU: Thank you.

THE MODERATOR: Two trophies and a baby.

ALEX PALOU: Two trophies and a baby.

THE MODERATOR: Congratulations, Alex Palou, 2023 NTT INDYCAR SERIES Champion.

Chip Ganassi

Mike Hull

Press Conference

THE MODERATOR: Joined by ownership/management of Chip Ganassi Racing. Of course, on the left, Chip Ganassi, now part of his 15th INDYCAR SERIES Championship as a car owner, and to his left, our right, long-time managing director of Chip Ganassi Racing in Mike Hull.

Chip, congratulations. Getting it done early. You don’t have to sweat it out next week, huh?

CHIP GANASSI: Yeah, that’s pretty big. I remember one time with one of our championships with Alex Zanardi, Morris Nunn said to him, you know, it was after he had won the championship, he won another race. I thought that was a pretty big statement today.

Just before the race I said to Alex, I said, Hey, let’s go wrap this thing up today.

He said, For sure. He said, We’re going to wrap it up with a win.

I said, Oh, okay.

So that was pretty big, I thought.

THE MODERATOR: Pretty impressive. Of course, Alex joins an elite list of multiple-time champions from Chip Ganassi Racing. Scott, of course, a six-time champion. Dario Franchitti, two-time champion. You already mentioned Alex as a two-time champion, and certainly he’s so young in his career. He has a long way to go, and who knows how many he can rack up?

CHIP GANASSI: Yes. Thank you.

THE MODERATOR: Mike, your thoughts on another championship winning season for this organization?

MIKE HULL: Well, it’s fantastic, but that’s an understatement. Working for Chip for as long as I have and to do what we’ve done 15 times, if anybody would have said that at the start, I would have probably quit on the spot.

I would say one thing first about American Legion. They’ve supported us dramatically, and I’m not a PR guy, like you, Dave. It’s just I’m going to say that about American Legion.

September is Suicide Prevention Month, and their program is making a difference. I know Chip was at the American Legion Convention and heard that this week, but Be the One is a big deal for servicemen and women, so we’re proud of that.

Proud to work for Chip. Proud to represent a lot of people. I talked to Barry Wanser by phone when I went back to the truck a few minutes ago and told him that we were going to dust the entire team for fingerprints because his are all over what we do with — I was told by one of our communications people today that we’ve had three cars in the top 10 at every race this year.

That’s how you win a championship. You work together to win, and that’s what we do. Really proud of the effort of everybody doing that.

THE MODERATOR: Questions, please.

Q. Chip, worst finishes all season, two eighths. In the 27-car field, just random acts of taking people out. What’s that like? In the big victories, he won by — he had some big wins by big margins.

CHIP GANASSI: Yeah, no question. The guys screwing the car together know what they’re doing. The guys engineering the car to make it fast know what they’re doing. And the guys calling the strategy know what they’re doing.

When you pair that with a driver that knows what he is doing, it’s a formidable combination that’s tough to beat.

Even our own team, it’s tough to beat even within our own team. We have great guys on the team, and it’s tough for them to do.

Q. Question for you, Chip. With Dario, Alex Zanardi, and now with Alex, you had three championship drivers from Europe. Do you have a representative in Europe to keep you updated with information about young promising drivers in Europe in various categories or championships?

CHIP GANASSI: Yeah, you know, everybody knows who the guys are that are good. You can see in these different formulas, guys that can win races know how to win races. Guys that can win championships know how to win championships.

I’ve always said I don’t care if they’re from Mars. If they can win the race, they’re going to be in our car.

Q. Hitting heroes on the team, Ricky Davis is one of them. It’s the fifth time he has won a championship on your team. If both of you can talk about the value of Ricky Davis at Chip Ganassi Racing?

CHIP GANASSI: No doubt. You have guys that tenure on this team is rewarding, and it rewards the entire team in having the experience at what it takes to win a championship. Ricky obviously has that.

Q. Mike, do you want to talk about Ricky?

MIKE HULL: We were lucky enough. I’ll take full responsibility for Rick. I hired him in 1994, and he’s done some fantastic things for us.

At his advanced age, like mine, it’s really good still to be working in this business, and what a great contributor.

Q. Where does this rank for you in terms of the wins in the championship, given that you guys have a one/two finish this year?

CHIP GANASSI: Well, that was the standard set a long time ago, whether it was with Zanardi and Vasser or Dario and Dixon. That’s kind of the standard around here, so we’re always trying to beat our own records.

I guess this is pretty high up there since we won two before the last race, so I have to say it’s right up there.

Q. For either Mike or Chip, whoever wants to answer this, how hard was it to manage two competitive teams with Alex and Scott, especially after how evolved the season after Indianapolis and the dominance for Alex and then Scott’s resurgence?

CHIP GANASSI: It’s not hard at all to manage professional drivers. They know what they’re doing, and we don’t have any No. 1 driver in our team. We have all No. 1s, and we’ve always said that.

We’ve always run the team that way. We don’t tell who gets in front of who or when or what. They just race each other.

Obviously the only rule is don’t hit each other, but we let them race on this team, and they know that.

Q. I think this is really for Mike. I think it’s a great find that you found Marcus Armstrong. I think you did very well this year. Then you’ve announced that you’ve hired Linus Lundqvist, but he hasn’t, I don’t think, tested with the team. What do you look for and what criteria made you decide to go ahead and sign him for next year?

MIKE HULL: I think Chip says it well. It’s their heart to begin with. The thing that you take for granted is their ability to be able to drive and their ability to be a team member, to be able to unselfishly give more than they get really.

It’s a pay-it-forward situation at Chip Ganassi Racing with our culture, and that goes throughout the entire group of people that work for us. We give more than get back to each other. That’s really what we look for, and you see the results over the years.

I think that’s what’s in common with all the drivers that have won for us, won racing multiply and championships. The drivers that we have announced and will announce will do the same thing.

THE MODERATOR: Thanks for coming in. Chip Ganassi, Mike Hull.

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