Sports

Palou: ‘Everything exploded’ in contract fight; hasn’t spoken to Ganassi

SPEEDWAY, Ind. (WISH) — Reigning IndyCar champion Alex Palou says he wasn’t surprised when a lawsuit was filed following his attempt to leave his current employer.

“To be honest, I was ready for it,” Palou said. “Everything exploded before Toronto and from that moment, I knew it was going to come.”

Chip Ganassi Racing filed suit against Palou on Tuesday, two weeks after a contract spat spilled out into the public.

Just before 4 p.m. on July 12, CGR announced that the team exercised its option to keep Palou for the 2023 IndyCar season.

A little over three hours later, Palou denied providing quotes for the team’s press release and said he didn’t intend to stay with the team. A few minutes after that, McLaren Racing announced that Palou had signed with the organization for 2023.

With two racing teams believing they have the same driver signed, paperwork was filed in Marion County civil court in an attempt to sort the ordeal. Court documents reviewed by News 8 do not provide much in the way of insight into the contract battle.

“Here, dissemination of Ganassi’s and Defendants’ confidential business information concerning the parties’ relationship and contractually confidential aspects of their agreements would create a significant risk of harm to Ganassi as an IndyCar racing organization, particularly because Ganassi’s competitors could use this information to their benefit and to Ganassi’s detriment,” reads a motion to seal Ganassi’s complaint.

An attorney conference is scheduled via Zoom on Aug. 1.

Missing from McLaren’s announcement regarding Palou is info regarding which McLaren team Palou would be assigned to. However, a statement from Palou’s attorneys on Thursday revealed Formula 1 aspirations.

We are disappointed that Chip Ganassi Racing would attempt to keep Alex from an opportunity to compete in Formula One, and even more so with CGR’s public court filings and continued commentary to the press on this matter. Alex has consistently given his very best effort to CGR and it is unfortunate that CGR would attempt to deny Alex this opportunity. We would hope the parties can resolve this amicably, but if not, we look forward to resolving this matter in a private arbitration, as CGR has requested.

Rachel E. Epstein, partner, Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan, LLP

Three different IndyCar drivers – Palou, Andretti Autosport’s Colton Herta and Arrow McLaren SP’s Pato O’Ward – have all been linked to a possible future open seat on McLaren’s Formula 1 team. The current lineup features talented youngster Lando Norris and struggling veteran Daniel Ricciardo. Norris is signed through 2025 while Ricciardo’s contract takes him through the 2023 season. Ricciardo is currently five spots behind Norris in the Formula 1 standings and does not have a top five finish this season.

In an interview with the media in the lead up to Saturday’s Gallagher Grand Prix at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, Palou refused to comment on his reasoning is for wanting to leave the team.

Palou said he has not spoken directly with team owner Chip Ganassi since the conflict started. Palou said Ganassi was not present at the doubleheader at Iowa Speedway last weekend but said he would expect to see him this week at IMS.

“It’s not like I’m going to avoid him at all,” Palou said.

While the lawyers fight over Palou’s contract, the driver intends to keep fighting in an attempt to become a two-time IndyCar champion. He’s currently sixth in the standings, 44 points behind series leader and Ganassi teammate Marcus Ericsson.