NASHVILLE, Tennessee – Alex Palou and Chip Ganassi had their first in-person conversation Sunday in roughly a month, and the banter was surprisingly upbeat and cordial.
After a third in the Music City Grand Prix – his best finish in five races since his bitter contract dispute began — Palou received a hearty congratulations (at the 3:15 mark of this video) from Ganassi, whose team sued the defending NTT IndyCar Series champion two weeks ago.
Palou said it was the first in-person conversation they’d had since he announced July 12 that he was leaving the team for McLaren Racing next year.
“We didn’t really have a chat one to one since them,” Palou said. “But, yeah, we see each other in the (team’s) trailers and stuff, and it’s not like we avoid each other.”
Was he surprised by the sudden thaw from Ganassi after getting a mostly cold shoulder for weeks?
“No, not at all,” Palou said. “No. I mean, no.”
The difference, he said, was that Ganassi celebrates podiums – and the team had two Sunday with Palou and Scott Dixon, who delivered the second consecutive victory in the Nashville street race to CGR.
“It’s not like (Ganassi) would be happy if I finished top five, to be honest,” Palou said. “Yeah, top three, I think, he was — even if Scott didn’t win the race, he would come and congratulate. Yeah, he is happy.”
Ganassi should be pleased that he has three bonafide shots at winning the 2022 IndyCar championship with three races remaining this season.
Dixon is six points behind leader Will Power, and Marcus Ericsson is 12 points behind in third.
Palou is ranked 33 points behind Josef Newgarden in fifth, and the Spaniard believes he will be given a fair shake at winning a second consecutive championship despite the inherent awkwardness of the lawsuit and the uncertainty of 2023.
“Yes, 100 percent,” Palou said. “Yeah. I think there’s a lot going on, but at the end of the day, Chip would be super happy if we win the championship. He wants one of his cars to win the championship. We cannot all three win, but he wants one car to win. I don’t think I’m getting less stuff or not so much attention than others. Otherwise, I would say it, to be honest. Yeah, I think we have a fair shot for sure.”
Dixon, who has been indirectly critical of Palou’s public handling of the situation, also said Ganassi would be fair to its trio of contenders.
“We’re here to win,” Dixon said. “Everybody is trying to win. That’s what I’ve always loved about this team. Obviously, this is a strange situation, and it hasn’t changed for Chip. The pre-race meetings are the same, and all of our cars are trying to win this championship.
“I know Alex is trying to win this championship as much as he can. It’s in his best interest to, as it is all of ours. Yeah, some stuff gets a bit awkward here and there, but we’re all here to win. That makes it pretty simple.”
Palou probably will need a win if he wants another crown. His most recent victory was at Portland nearly a year ago, and his No. 10 Dallara-Honda has been stymied from reaching victory lane this season by a host of driver and team errors.
“I think we started the year great,” he said. “We did a lot of mistakes, and we had a bit of unlucky time at some races, which cost us a lot of points, but everybody has some unlucky races.
“I’m not surprised that we are there because we’ve been doing some great results, but I know I need to win a race. I know it’s coming. I have faith. I know that the work we’re doing is good, and some races that are coming are good for us. Yeah, I have faith that we’re going to win one race this year.”