Alex Palou, Chip Ganassi have their first conversation in weeks after Nashville race

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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.”

Starting lineup grid for IMSA Petit Le Mans: Tom Blomqvist puts MSR on pole position

Petit Le Mans lineup
IMSA
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IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar championship contender Tom Blomqvist put the Meyer Shank Racing Acura at the front of the starting lineup for the Motul Petit Le Mans at Michelin Road Atlanta.

Blomqvist turned a 1-minute, 8.55-second lap on the 2.54-mile circuit Friday to capture his third pole position for MSR this season. Earl Bamber qualified second in the No. 02 Cadillac for Chip Ganassi Racing.

Ricky Taylor was third in the No. 10 Acura of Wayne Taylor Racing, which enters Saturday’s season finale with a 19-point lead over the No. 60 of Blomqvist and Oliver Jarvis (who will be joined by Helio Castroneves) for the 10-hour race.

PETIT LE MANS STARTING GRID: Click here for the starting lineup l Lineup by car number

PETIT LE MANS: Info on how to watch

With the pole, MSR sliced the deficit to 14 points behind WTR, which will field the trio of Taylor, Filipe Albuquerque and Brendon Hartley in Saturday’s race.

“We really needed to put the car in this kind of position,” Blomqvist said. “It makes our life a little less stressful tomorrow. It would have given the No. 10 a bit more breathing space. It’s going to be a proper dogfight tomorrow. The guys gave me such a great car. It’s been fantastic this week so far, and it really came alive. I’m hugely thankful to the boys and girls at MSR for giving me the wagon today to execute my job.

“That was a big effort from me. I knew how important it was. It’s just awesome for the guys to give them some sort of reward as well. It’s always nice to be quick. If you do the pole, you know you’ve got a quick car.”

Though WTR has a series-leading four victories with the No. 10, MSR won the Rolex 24 at Daytona and has five runner-up finishes along with its three poles.

The strong performances of the ARX-05s ensure that an Acura will win the final championship in IMSA’s premier Daytona Prototype international (DPi) division, which is being rebranded as Grand Touring Prototype in the move to LMDh cars next season.

Taylor qualified third despite sliding into the Turn 5 gravel during the closing minutes of qualifying while pushing to gain points.

“Qualifying was important for points,” Taylor said. “Going into it, if we outqualified the No. 60 Meyer Shank Acura, they had a lot to lose in terms of championship points. So, we were trying to increase the gap over 20 points which would’ve made a big difference for tomorrow. We would have loved to get the pole and qualify ahead of the No. 60, but in the scheme of the points, it didn’t change a whole lot. I’m feeling good since it’s such a long race, and the No. 10 Konica Minolta Acura team does such a good job strategizing and putting us in a good position.

“I’m very confident in our lineup and our team compared to them over the course of 10 hours. I’d put my two teammates up against those guys any day. I think we are all feeling optimistic and strong for tomorrow.”

In other divisions, PR1 Mathiasen Motorsports (LMP2), Riley Motorsports (LMP3), VasserSullivan (GTD Pro) and Paul Miller Racing (GTD) captured pole positions.

The broadcast of the 10-hour race will begin Saturday at 12:10 p.m. ET on NBC, moving at 3 p.m. to USA Network.


QUALIFYING

Results

Results by class

Fastest lap by driver

Fastest lap by driver after qualifying

Fastest lap by driver and class after qualifying

Fastest lap sequence in qualifying

Best sector times in qualifying

Time cards in qualifying

PRACTICE RESULTS: Session I l Session II l Session III