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Newgarden: Palou can still be caught in IndyCar points chase

Team Penske driver Josef Newgarden believes his Chip Ganassi Racing rival Alex Palou’s huge IndyCar points advantage can still be overhauled in the remaining races of the season.

Josef Newgarden, Team Penske Chevrolet

Palou scored his third win of the season at Road America on Sunday, extending his lead to 74 points over his team-mate Marcus Ericsson.

In securing his team's 250th race victory, the 2021 champion is now 81 points clear of best non-Ganassi driver Newgarden.

But the Indianapolis 500 winner, who finished second on Sunday, shrugged off the deficit as the series approaches its halfway point at Mid-Ohio next month.

“Probably win by 200 points if you won nine races straight,” he said. “Yeah, I mean, it's pretty wide open still.”

Newgarden pointed to Palou’s consistent points scoring, even bouncing back to finish fourth in the Indy 500 after a pitroad collision with Rinus VeeKay put Palou in the wall and broke his front wing – which dropped him to last place for a time.

“It's kind of out of our control,” he admitted of Palou’s metronomic scoring.

“They've had a good run up to this point, right? They've not had a bad race. I think that's to be expected.

“We had an engine pop on us in the very first round. Everybody has a different story.

“If you look at their story, they've not had one bad race yet. When you have eight races in a row without a bad one, this is what happens points-wise.

Josef Newgarden, Team Penske Chevrolet congratulates Alex Palou, Chip Ganassi Racing Honda

Josef Newgarden, Team Penske Chevrolet congratulates Alex Palou, Chip Ganassi Racing Honda

Photo by: Geoffrey M. Miller / Motorsport Images

“What's going to happen on the final nine, it's impossible to say. There's so much season still that he's got a good cushion at this point, they've done a great job, but I don't think that guarantees anything in IndyCar.”

Arrow McLaren’s Pato O’Ward added: “Obviously this isn’t an ideal for all of us, including ourselves, in the championship but Alex and the Ganassi guys have done a fantastic job again, and we just need to be better.

“We gotta win races. If you win nine more races, yeah, you can do it.”

Palou said it was too early to think about racing for points and will continue to focus on race wins – having already matched his win tally in his 2021 title season.

“I would understand racing for points on the last two races, but it's too early,” he said.

“We did eight races. There's still nine left. I mean, somebody else can do the same amount of points that we did, or even more, with the races that we have left.

“We're going to focus on scoring wins because that's the way we can score more points. That's the best way.

“Honestly, there's some races coming up now that are still really good for us and we know we're going to have a car and my confidence to fight for wins.”

Alex Palou, Chip Ganassi Racing Honda

Alex Palou, Chip Ganassi Racing Honda

Photo by: Geoffrey M. Miller / Motorsport Images

Palou says the experience of winning the championship before gives him more confidence in how to play out the second half of the season.

“I feel a lot better now, in '21, everything was new for me,” he admitted. “I didn't really know how to manage stuff. It was all new for me.

“At least now I have some more experience both on track and off track. Hopefully we can maintain that gap.

“I'm glad that we have those points in our camp, and we don't have to catch other people, but I'm not relaxed by the points gap at all because it's IndyCar.

“If it was another series, yeah, maybe I would be a bit more relaxed. In IndyCar, you can't. Somebody can have three or four wins in a row.”

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