Alex Palou earned a podium in the final race of IndyCar’s Iowa double-header, but still lost ground in the championship to Josef Newgarden.

The 2019 champion decimated the field by winning both races, and closed his gap to Palou the head of the points standings from 126 to 80.

The rate at which his lead shrunk reminded Palou of how quickly his points lead can disappear, even though there are only five races left in the season.

He also all but expects Newgarden to win the final oval round in Gateway next month, which adds extra pressure for him to do well the rest of the season.

“100% didn’t expect to be on the podium today,” said Palou after finishing in third for the race on Sunday. “Yeah, I’m happy to be here.

“I expected Josef to win [this weekend] because the last races that he finished on an oval, not including Indy 500 this year, but the past, he has won. So we were counting on that, and it was up to us to try and minimize the damage.

“I hope that before getting to Gateway, it’s not as bad as Iowa in the past, but [my performance there has] not been great. I think I feel a bit more comfortable there, and also we have a bit more performance from the car.

“But this guy [Newgarden], I count on him winning there, so I need to do the work in Nashville and Indy Road Course before getting there.

“I’m glad we have those points in the bag, but I’m not comfortable, honestly. I will be comfortable if we won the championship already. We know in IndyCar with the big swing you can make in only one weekend just by winning and having a bad race, yeah, you can never give up.”

Palou has not been as strong on short ovals as some of his rivals. Photo: Kevin Dejewski

Newgarden has won the last three races held at Gateway, giving Palou and the rest of the field plenty of reason to think he can do it again on August 27.

If Newgarden continues to gain ground in the points at the same rate he did this weekend, he will catch the younger Spaniard just in time for the season finale at Laguna Seca.

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