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IndyCar champion Palou targets first oval win in 2022

Autosport logo Autosport 18/1/2022 David Malsher-Lopez

The Chip Ganassi Racing driver scored three wins and five other podium finishes in 2021 on his way to the title, beating Team Penske rival Josef Newgarden and Arrow McLaren SP's Pato O'Ward.

Palou, who only made his IndyCar debut in 2020 with Dale Coyne Racing, has a best oval finish to date of second in the 2021 Indy 500 behind four-time winner Helio Castroneves and also finished fourth at Texas.

In his champion’s press conference at Long Beach last September, Palou referenced that there were still areas where he sought self-improvement for 2022.

While remaining coy on where he wants to make progress with assembled media on Monday, Palou explained that he agreed with comments made by his race engineer Julian Robertson to Autosport in December that he still lacks experience on ovals.

“I'm not going to get a lot into details obviously,” said the 25-year-old.

“But I think I've done maybe a bit less than 10 oval races during my career between 2020 and 2021, maybe just 10.

“I have a long way of getting more experience, knowing how to race, getting the confidence once we get to a new or different track.

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“Oval is a good part. Qualifying, I think is another part. Starting more up front, getting one-lap speed should be a priority for us.

“We've always been able – not always – but constantly able to be around Fast 6 or top 10, which is great, but we only got one pole position [at Portland]. Hopefully that's going to improve and make our life easier during the races.”

Palou fought Castroneves for 2021 Indy 500 win, and is eyeing his first success on ovals this year © Palou fought Castroneves for 2021 Indy 500 win, and is eyeing his first success on ovals this year

Palou fought Castroneves for 2021 Indy 500 win, and is eyeing his first success on ovals this year

Photo by: Barry Cantrell / Motorsport Images

Palou admitted he took a lot of satisfaction from fighting Castroneves at Indianapolis and from his stirring drive from near the back of the field following an engine penalty at Gateway before being sent into the wall by a spinning Rinus VeeKay.

“Indy was a really big learning curve for me, since I started with a crash in qualifying,” he said.

“We got the confidence back, then suddenly we were leading the Indy 500 not knowing how!

“I think having a bit more experience would have made the position I was in a little bit better. [But] it was great, I think it was good to learn from Helio.

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“Gateway was really good. I was surprised with how the car was handling and how easy it was to get through the field.

“Hopefully when we go to Texas, Iowa and again Indy, I'm going to have more confidence and we're going to be able to start more up front and try and win my first oval race.”

Palou also denied that he faced any additional pressure as defending champion with the proverbial target on his back.

“We've been working as if last year we lost it and I think we'll be ready to try and fight again,” he said.

“We always have pressure in all kind of sports, but especially motorsport where you need to show your potential in order to get a new contract, right?

“We always have pressure, but I don't think I have added pressure from last year. I would say I even have less.

“But I don't think that's a good or bad thing. We already showed we're capable of winning a championship, winning races and being up there. We just need to do it again.”

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