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Alex Palou reclaims IndyCar championship lead with win at Laguna Seca

Alex Palou prepares before the start an IndyCar auto race at World Wide Technology Raceway, Sunday, Aug. 27, 2023, in Madison, Ill. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)

MONTEREY, Calif. (AP) — Two-time IndyCar champion Alex Palou reclaimed the lead in the championship standings by winning from the pole Sunday at Laguna Seca Raceway.

Palou, now a two-time winner on the permanent road course, has finished on the podium in all four of his career starts at the California track. His win there in the 2022 season finale was believed to be the catalyst for him changing his mind to leave Chip Ganassi Racing for a move to Arrow McLaren Racing.

It is the second win of the season for the Spaniard, not counting his victory in the $1 million exhibition race in March.

Colton Herta finished second for Andretti Global and Alexander Rossi finished third to earn his first podium of the season — and only his second overall since joining Arrow McLaren.

Romain Grosjean was fourth in his best finish since joining Juncos Hollinger Racing this year. It was the best finish ever for a JHR driver.

Kyle Kirkwood of Andretti was fifth, followed by Scott Dixon of Ganassi and then Will Power of Team Penske. Power had held a five-point lead over Palou in the standings prior to Sunday’s race.

It was an OK Arrow McLaren debut for 19-year-old Palo Alto native Nolan Siegel, who was just hired for the seat earlier this week. The youngest driver on the grid spun off the track and into the gravel to draw a full-course caution on a restart midway through the race.

“Sorry about that,” he radioed. “I’m really sorry.”

He finished 12th.

Siegel is the third different driver in the No. 6 this season as the ride was supposed to go to Palou, who changed his mind in a breach of contract dispute with McLaren. The team then hired David Malukas, who broke his wrist in a mountain biking crash one month before the season opener.

After he missed the fourth race of the season, it triggered a clause in Malukas’ contract that allowed McLaren to fire him and the team finally settled on Siegel as his full-time replacement this week.

Malukas, meanwhile, was hired by Meyer Shank Racing. He made his season debut Sunday and finished 16th. There had been questions about whether his fitness was sufficient to complete the 95-lap race.