The Spaniard, who won the Indianapolis Grand Prix, led 74 of 100 laps on Detroit’s new street course and went ahead for the last time on lap 77. He stayed in front after Will Power made a move that didn’t pan out as he made contact with Scott Dixon on lap 91.
After a seventh yellow flag, Palou pulled away in his Honda with five laps left and beat Power’s Chevrolet by 1.1843 seconds. Flex Rosenqvist finished third, followed by Scott Dixon and Alexander Rossi.
The race got off to a rough start, a day after Palou said there would be excessive traffic on a track too tight and short for IndyCar.
The start was waved off because there wasn’t enough space between cars. When the race resumed on the second lap going into Turn 3, Callum Ilott damaged Kyle Kirkwood’s wing by running into him in the middle of the 27-car pack.
Palou, who won his second straight pole Saturday and the third of his career, said his plan was to stay in front with clean air ahead of the chaos as much as possible.
It worked out well.
The Chip Ganassi Racing driver led the race from the start until pitting on lap 29 and allowing Power to pull into the lead.
When Power pulled into the split pit five laps later, Pato O’Ward had a lead that didn’t last long. Just after leaving a pit stop, his Honda stalled due to a mechanical issue and his Chip Ganassi Racing crew had to push him back to address the problem.
Trying to make up ground, O’Ward made an aggressive move to get inside Santino Ferrucci and ran into a barrier wall ending his day 41 laps into the 100-lap race.
Palou, meanwhile, was fast and steady enough to lead the race for most of the afternoon.
While he complained about the short, tight and bumpy circuit, fans seemed to enjoy the day above the fray and some watched for free. More than half of the race track was accessible without an admission charge and some had a view from boats and jet skis on the Detroit River that separates the U.S. from Canada.
The Detroit Grand Prix returned downtown for the first time since 1991, when it was held on a 2.5-mile course in the same area, after running up the river at Belle Isle.
UP NEXT: Coming off the Indy 500 and Detroit Grand Prix in consecutive weeks, the series gives its drivers and teams a much-needed break before racing June 18 in Wisconsin at Road America.
Larry Lage, The Associated Press