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IndyCar Indy 500

Palou ‘doesn’t understand’ VeeKay’s Indy 500 fuel-save obsession

Indianapolis 500 pole-winner Alex Palou says he doesn’t understand why fellow front-row starter Rinus VeeKey was obsessed with fuel saving in final practice on Carb Day.

Alex Palou, Chip Ganassi Racing Honda

Palou beat VeeKay to pole by the second-closest margin in Indy 500 qualifying history, at 0.004s and 0.006mph last Sunday.

Today, Palou set the fourth fastest lap in the final practice session before the green flag flies on the 107th running of the Indy 500 on Sunday. He said VeeKay wasn’t at all interested in drafting past him, as they practised race simulation running on track together, and questioned his approach.

“He didn't want to pass today,” said Palou of VeeKay. “He just wanted to save fuel on Carb Day and I didn't really understand what he was doing on the track.

“But if he drives normal, yeah, we're going to be exchanging [the lead on Sunday] a lot. I don't know if it's going to be me or somebody else, but yeah, I think when you are second, it's easy to pass, and when you are first, you cannot really do much.

“I just hope that they don't go crazy on the guy that is leading, trying to save fuel while you're leading because that doesn't work and then it's crazy behind. So, if I'm in control, if I'm leading, I'll try and just go and try and play with somebody, and if they don't want to, like Rinus didn't want to today, we'll see what happens.”

Rinus VeeKay, Ed Carpenter Racing Chevrolet

Rinus VeeKay, Ed Carpenter Racing Chevrolet

Photo by: Jake Galstad / Motorsport Images

In his media sessions on Thursday, VeeKay was adamant that fuel saving would be his key strategy in Sunday’s race, rather than leading laps.

He was slowest of all on Carb Day, with his fastest lap of 222.166mph some 5mph slower than Palou’s pacesetting team-mate Takuma Sato.

“Qualifying pace doesn’t mean anything for the race, we have a totally different car for that,” said VeeKay. “I know we have a very fast car and starting at the front is very important.

“I can go straight into fuel save mode, sitting behind Alex, I’ll slot behind him and make sure we stay in the race until the end and battle him whenever the fuel save goes out the window.”

When asked by Motorsport.com to explain his planned strategy from the start, he replied: “If you’re in the top five, you are kinda in a safe spot, so you can save fuel. If you stay there all race then you’ll be fine for the end when you can attack.

“Fuel save is important, it gave Alex Rossi the win in 2016, and we can always change the strategy around and go full fuel burn, but you can never win that back if you do.

“I think there will be overtaking in the middle of the pack, I think those guys will move their way forward. I see my team-mates Ed [Carpenter] and Conor [Daly] moving forward, but if they don’t, I have to work with these other guys and teams.

“Definitely Ganassi and McLaren will be around me, so I’ll work together with special guys like Palou and Rosenqvist, who’ll also want to be around at the end, so we have to cooperate.”

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