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Alex Palou. (Al Steinberg photo)

Palou Emerges As Fastest Driver In Monterey Warm-Up

MONTEREY, Calif. — Alex Palou was the fastest driver in Sunday morning’s final practice session prior to the Firestone Grand Prix of Monterey.

The Chip Ganassi Racing driver powered the No. 10 NTT DATA Honda around the 2.238-mile, 11-turn WeatherTech Raceway at Laguna Seca in 1:12.9318.

Palou originally qualified fifth in Saturday’s qualifications but was assessed a six-grid spot penalty by IndyCar officials for an unapproved engine change following Saturday’s qualifications at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca.

Honda Racing Performance officials revealed the penalty to SPEED SPORT and other outlets Saturday night.

The team was in violation of:

“Rule A fifth (5th) Engine is eligible to earn Engine Manufacturer points if a Full Season Entrant has completed the Full Season Entrant Engine Mileage with its first four (4) Engines. Otherwise, a fifth (5th) or more Engine does not earn Engine Manufacturer points and will be considered an Unapproved Engine change-out.

“According to Rule, the penalty is a six-position starting grid penalty on road and street course events and nine positions at oval events and will be served at the series’ next event, which is the Firestone Grand Prix of Monterey, today, at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca.”

This is likely Palou’s final NTT IndyCar Series race for Chip Ganassi Racing.

His future will be determined in either the mediation process or in court as Chip Ganassi Racing is suing the driver after he signed a contract with McLaren in July. Ganassi picked up Palou’s option for 2023.

Scott McLaughlin, who is fifth in the standings and 42 points behind championship leader and Team Penske teammate Will Power, was second at 1:13.4435 in the No. 3 Chevrolet. Alexander Rossi, driving in his final race for Andretti Autosport, was third in the No. 27 Honda at 1:13.5703.

Rookie David Malukas was fourth at 1:13.6474 and another rookie Devlin DeFrancesco was fifth at 1:13.7738.

Six-time NTT IndyCar Series champion Scott Dixon is 21 points behind Power. He was eighth fastest Sunday morning at 1:13.8854 in the No. 9 PNC Bank Honda. Marcus Ericsson of Chip Ganassi Racing is 40 points back in fourth place. He was 12th at 1:14.2023.

Power was 18th at 1:14.6983 in the No. 12 Verizon Chevrolet. Newgarden, who is also 21 points out, was 19th’s at 1:15.0707 in No. 2 Hitachi Chevrolet for Team Penske.

The race will be television on NBC beginning at 2:40 p.m. (ET).

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