Alex Palou hints at return to Chip Ganassi Racing next season after winning finale

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MONTEREY, California – As Alex Palou smiled in the winners circle at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca, Chip Ganassi was smiling just a few feet behind him.

On its face, the scene was extraordinarily normal: Palou had won his first race of 2022 in the Grand Prix of Monterey season finale, and Ganassi naturally was sharing in the celebration as the team owner of the No. 10 Dallara-Honda.

But there haven’t been many happy moments between Palou and Ganassi this season. Their relationship turned frosty after a contract dispute erupted July 12 when Palou revealed he had signed with McLaren Racing after Ganassi announced an extension of the defending series champion’s contract.

All seemed forgotten after a gorgeous Sunday drive in which Palou led 67 of 95 laps and won by an astounding 30.3812 seconds over Josef Newgarden.

Have fences been mended between a driver and team owner who seemed destined for a permanent split after this season?

“Yeah, things are moving good, so we’ll see what can we tell, but yeah,” Palou told NBC Sports’ Kevin Lee after being asked if this was his last race in the No. 10. “We’re going to enjoy the moment now and we’ll see what happens.”

Chip Ganassi leans into the No. 10 cockpit to congratulate Alex Palou after his victory in the 2022 IndyCar season finale at Laguna Seca (Travis Hinkle/Penske Entertainment).

There were many other hints Sunday that things surprisingly could be returning to normal for the duo.

In the news conference after his fourth career NTT IndyCar Series victory, Palou disclosed he and Ganassi had talked Sunday morning at Laguna Seca and also before last Sunday’s race at Portland.

“Yeah, we talk,” Palou said. “So … “

Are you talking about the 2023 season?

“Obviously,” he said with a smile.

So there’s a chance you could be driving again next year for Chip Ganassi Racing, which currently is embroiled in arbitration with Palou after suing its driver?

“Yeah, we’ll see when I know,” Palou said. “I wish I could tell you guys, ‘Hey, I’m doing this,’ but I don’t have an answer yet.

“Maybe tomorrow.”

It’s a decided shift in tone for the Spaniard, who was adamant July 29 (three days after Ganassi filed its lawsuit) that he would be with McLaren Racing next season in some capacity.

In an interview Sunday morning with a small group of reporters, McLaren Racing CEO Zak Brown wouldn’t confirm that Palou still would be joining his organization.

With two of its IndyCar seats filled for next season, Brown said McLaren would need to decide by the end of this month whether its third car will be driven by Palou or Felix Rosenqvist, who is being courted by other teams.

“It’s still a work in progress,” Brown said. “What I would say is I’m very happy with Felix. He’s done an excellent job this year. He’s been strong all year. We’ll see how that works out. I’d be very happy to have Felix in our car again. “We need to make a decision, because I think he would be picked up by another (IndyCar) team.”

Asked what the likelihood of Palou’s situation being resolved within the next three weeks, Brown said, “hard to tell. I’d say the ball’s in Chip’s court.”

Ganassi hasn’t spoken publicly about the situation since July 12, but if he would have comment on Palou’s performance Sunday, the reviews would have been overwhelmingly positive.

After starting 11th because of a six-position grid penalty for an engine change, Palou made the most of fresh horsepower and some magical setup adjustments to his car that he found in Sunday’s morning warmup.

“It was so tough to drive today and all weekend here at Laguna,” he said. “The grip level from the tarmac is so low so you’re fighting all the time, so it never feels like you have a good car even when you’re leading by that much. But in comparison to others obviously, it was the biggest margin (of victory) that I ever got. It felt really good. Strategy and all pit stops were really good as well. Yeah, it felt amazing. Hopefully it’s not the last car that is as good as what we had today.”

A reporter noted that Palou finished more than 35 seconds ahead of the highest-finishing Arrow McLaren SP Chevrolet (Rosenqvist in fourth).

“We’ll see what happens, but I wish I was 35 seconds ahead every race,” Palou said with a smile. “Everything went super well today.”

Alex Palou celebrates his first IndyCar victory in a year Sunday in the Grand Prix of Monterey at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca (Gary A. Vasquez/USA TODAY Sports Images).

In the eight races since the contract dispute, the Laguna Seca win marked the second podium for Palou (who also was congratulated by Ganassi after a third at Nashville last month). Despite all the external distractions, he was in championship contention until Portland and still managed to finish fourth in the points standings – not that it was much of a consolation.

“I wish I had that pressure of fighting for the championship and points in my mind,” he said. “I love that. I felt sad coming to this weekend. When I said that going to Portland we were going to have a chance, I really thought I had a chance, and that didn’t happen. I was really sad. I wish that I couldn’t sleep last night because I was thinking about points, but it was not like that this year, so yeah, we’ll try again next year.

“I think we didn’t really maximize the year we had. I knew we were going to have seasons like that. There was a bit more drama than we wanted, but happy to finish here, and hopefully we can start the same way next year.”

Wherever that might be.

“They’re waiting to see what happens, as all of you guys,” Palou said when asked about his state of mind after the win Sunday. “Unfortunately I don’t have anything to share. I think everything is moving in the right direction. I don’t know if it’s going to take one day, one week or one month, but hopefully everything is going to be solved soon.

“I don’t have anything to say clear, but everything is moving the right direction.”

Tom Blomqvist keeps eye on IndyCar during impressive rise: ‘ I would love to give it a go’

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DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – In between two of his latest superstar-driver-in-waiting performances, Tom Blomqvist walked through the Daytona International Speedway garage in anonymity.

“Nobody knows who the (expletive) I am,” he said to a team member with a laugh (and without a trace of being miffed), evincing the cheeky humor of someone born in England, raised in New Zealand and also of Swedish descent.

The lack of recognition in the garage might have been because he was clad in a relatively nondescript shirt, hat and sunglasses instead of a colorful firesuit covered by sponsor logos. But he also was on the way to a Friday race eve media availability where his entrance was greeted by only one reporter (after a few minutes).

During a news conference a day earlier, he sat patiently on the dais while his Indy 500-winning teammates and car owner fielded nearly all the questions – even though Blomqvist had turned maybe the most impressive lap of the month to win the Rolex 24 at Daytona pole position in the debut of the Grand Touring Prototype category.

The Meyer Shank Racing driver still might lack the attention commensurate with his already world-class CV (which expanded Sunday with his second consecutive Rolex 24  victory for MSR), but Blomqvist, 29, clearly isn’t bothered by it.

He carries the quiet confidence of knowing his immense talent will ensure results that will make him impossible to ignore.

“To a degree, I guess, it’s definitely ramped up a lot for me,” Blomqvist told NBC Sports. “In America, I’m starting to get a lot more (attention). In the last year, I’ve quite often got a lot of maybe what you’d call the glory moments. It’s been fun. And within the paddock, there’s a lot of respect for me anyway. It’s been good.”

There have been several moments of acclaim since he joined MSR barely a year ago in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship. In his first start for the team at last year’s Rolex 24, Blomqvist turned in a Herculean performance to position the No. 60 Acura for the victory (giving way to Helio Castroneves because he was too “cooked” to complete the last 74 minutes).

He was even better this year at Daytona.

He ripped off a monster “one and done” pole-winning lap to beat the clock in qualifying on the 12-turn, 3.56-mile road course. During the race, Blomqvist was as dominant in his first stint as his last in the ARX-06 while taking the checkered flag. He set the mark for the fastest time on Lap 6 that no one topped over the final 755 laps.

The 10 fastest laps in the race belonged to Blomqvist, carrying over his speed from the 2022 when he won the Petit Le Mans season finale to clinch the premier prototype championship at Michelin Road Atlanta.

A year earlier at the same track, he had burst onto the radar of car owner Mike Shank, who was intrigued by Blomqvist’s results as a BMW factory driver in the Formula E and DTM series. In 2014, Blomqvist also finished between second in F3, between champion Esteban Ocon (now with Alpine’s F1 team) and Max Verstappen (who has won the past two Formula One championships).

“He did a lot of high-level stuff, and then kind of fell out of favor, or I don’t know what happened, but he was a free agent,” Shank said. “I started looking at his numbers, and I’m like, ‘We should test this guy. So I take him to Road Atlanta in the fall of ’21, and he got in the car and just slayed it.”

Within minutes, he had called co-owner Jim Meyer.

“I’ve got our guy,” Shank said. “This is our guy. There’s no question about it.

Honda Performance Development president David Salters hugs Tom Blomqvist after the Rolex 24 at Daytona pole (Mike Levitt/LAT/IMSA).

“Now what’s happened, though, and I think if you look back at the Rolex here last year (and) what he did, he’s a gold nugget. He reminds me a little bit when (Robert) Wickens came into IndyCar out of DTM (as a rookie in 2018).

“He truly believes he’s the fastest guy out there, and he proved it (at the Rolex 24).”

Said David Salters, president for Honda Performance Development: “We love Tom. He’s the real deal, isn’t he? Immensely talented, super smart, and on it.

The great thing about our teams, the strength in depth is tremendous. But if you look through the sports car racing now, that’s the standard you have to have. Tom, brilliant, Filipe (Albuquerque), brilliant. Ricky (Taylor). You can go through that list. They’re all superstars. Tom is awesome. His lap in qualifying quite frankly was unbelievable.”


Having conquered one of the world’s greatest endurance races twice with Acura, Blomqvist could be ticketed for the world’s biggest race next – the Indy 500 — with HPD’s primary brand.

He tested a Dallara-Honda for MSR last October at Sebring International Raceway, and while he plans to focus solely on IMSA this season, he remains very intrigued by IndyCar.

And with Castroneves, 47, beginning a one-year deal with MSR’s IndyCar team, there could be an obvious opening in 2024.

“Obviously, it’s not in the cards this year,” Blomqvist told NBC Sports the day before the Rolex. “Yeah, I would love to give it a go. To be honest, I think that would be an amazing step for me in my career. I enjoy the sports car stuff so much. It’s been really good to me lately. I really enjoyed the style of racing.

“But I feel like IndyCar would be a step up for me and my career. It would be fantastic if I could get that opportunity. But yeah, I guess I have to keep pushing Mike or something to give me a shot. But obviously for now, the focus is here in the sports car stuff. It’s not really down to me at the end of the day. And I’ve got to do my job and then the people who pay the bills and make the decisions obviously have to decide if that’s something worth pursuing.

“But yeah, I’d love to give it a go, and I definitely would be up for it.”

Tom Blomqvist after winning the Rolex 24 at Daytona pole on the final qualifying lap (Mike Levitt/LAT/IMSA).

A transition from IMSA to IndyCar naturally would be easier than switching teams, but it also would be comfortable because Blomqvist already seems such a good fit at MSR.

It might have seemed an unusual pairing given his European-heavy background, but Blomqvist likes the Midwestern culture that’s been built at MSR. Based just outside Columbus, Ohio, the team’s shop has “no egos, and that just enables each and every one of to reach our potential.

“Obviously, with Honda, we obviously have some great resources, but we’re up against Porsche, BMW and some big heavy hitters in the motorsports world,” he said. “I wouldn’t say we’ve got a huge team compared to them, but we’ve obviously got a very capable team, and I think that’s what has been so impressive and really, really nice to see about the work that’s been done. No stone has been left unturned.”


Blomqvist still is living in Europe and planning to commute for the nine-race GTP schedule (which has a nearly two-month break after the Rolex 24 until the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring). But though he’s “got good friends in America, so I do have places to stay,” he seems open to being based more permanently near MSR in America.

“Let’s see what the future brings, and if that means me spending more time over here,” he said. “It’s a fantastic team. It’s a different environment to what I’m used to. It’s obviously now a hugely successful team, but it is a small team. It does feel like a very small family-operated team, which it is.

“I think Mike’s really just built this thing. It hasn’t happened overnight. Mike’s a great guy and put a lot of trust and faith in me, and I played a relatively good part in some of the success last year. I was able to reward him and give him my all every time I’m on track, and he respects that. But we are still a small team. In the grand scheme of things, we still are a really, really small team.”

Blomqvist said the BMW factory program would have two or three times the staffing of MSR – just on one of its two GTP cars.

“But it’s not the number of people that makes a difference, it’s the quality of people, and obviously Mike and HPD are a fantastic operation to go racing,” Blomqvist said. “We’re racers at heart.

“I’ve been part of some big outfits, and the European way of working is very, very different to how people go about racing in America. I’d say it’s more seat of your pants. A lot of emotion and kind of rides on that competitive spirt, competitive nature and on their personalities. It’s a lot more pure. It feels very pure. You want to win, so we go out and don’t cut corners on trying to win.”

Though it’s aligned with Liberty Media and has big-budget backing and support from Honda Performance Development, MSR also is much less corporate than most GTP teams.

A longtime and respected team owner who has built a sponsor portfolio, Shank also describes his maniacal dedication to success as “messed up,” and he’s known for dropping vulgarities into postrace interview with his blunt and self-deprecating sense of humor.

Meyer Shank Racing co-owner Mike Shank congratulates Tom Blomqvist on the Rolex 24 at Daytona pole position (Mike Levitt/LAT/IMSA).

With a more laid-back but sometimes just as biting demeanor, Blomqvist has become the team’s unquestioned leader behind the wheel

“I definitely feel a lot more immersed,” he said. “Within the team, I was a bit more of an unknown quantity the start of last year. Obviously after last season, the team trusts me a lot. And that gives me a lot of pleasure, pride and confidence. In this sport, confidence is a huge aspect of drivers’ psychology in a way. We’re in extremely high-pressure moments where my job is to perform under the pressure of these organizations and the brand as well.

“It’s just a good, healthy team to be a part of. It’s a high-pressure environment, but the team obviously have put a lot of faith in me, and I’ve been able to deliver for them on occasions.”

Rolex 24 starting lineup
Tom Blomqvist celebrates after winning the pole in the No. 60 Acura ARX-06 (Mike Levitt/LAT/IMSA).