When the tire choices for the start of Saturday’s GMR Grand Prix were revealed, Alex Palou and his Chip Ganassi Racing team were surprised to see that they were alone in their strategy choice among those at the front.

Palou chose to start the race on the red-walled softer tires, not because they were better, but because they were the worse tire.

He wanted to get the poor performers out of the way early, and spend the rest of the race on the longer-lasting black tires.

When the 2021 champion saw what others had chosen, he knew right away that he had a good chance to win the race in exactly the manner which he did.

Palou was the only driver in the top seven to choose to start on red tires, and one of only two drivers in the entire field to run three full stints on the harder primary tires.

“It did,” said Palou when asked if he was surprised. “For us, it was clear. We were struggling a little bit more than some of the guys on used reds in the warmup. But still it’s not like they were amazing.

“We knew that we didn’t want to use used reds. That’s why we started on new alternates, try to get the lead, try to get a big gap, like two, three, four, seconds, then work on our pace on blacks.

“Once I saw the starting grid with the tires, we were like, ‘Okay, we’re in a good place.’ Still you have to do it. If you get stuck behind [polesitter Christian Lundgaard on reds, you’re done, your race is over, because you’ll have more tire deg.

“We knew we were on the right strategy for the #10 car, but you still had to do it on track.

“We were going to do a bigger gamble before [Saturday morning] warmup, which was starting on used reds. We knew since practice, honestly, that we wanted to start on reds. I was surprised that no other people at the front started on reds. But it worked for us!”

The lead traded hands a few times between Palou and Lundgaard at the beginning of the race, but from the middle of the race onwards it was all Palou at the front.

The Spaniard led 52 of the 85 laps on the day, and finished an impressive 16.8 seconds ahead of second place.

Palou now carries a ton of momentum into the Indy 500 sessions, which start early next week and will last the better part of two weeks.

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