The fight over IndyCar champion Alex Palou is headed to court as Chip Ganassi Racing filed a civil lawsuit in Indiana against the Spanish driver who is attempting to leave the team at the end of the season.

Palou is in his second season driving for Ganassi. The team owner said he picked up the exclusive option he held on Palou for the 2023 season. Palou, meanwhile, says he informed CGR he does not intend to return for a third season, and McLaren Racing said it has signed the driver for next year.

The lawsuit filed in Marion County Superior Court in Indianapolis names both Palou and ALPA Racing, which is listed as Palou’s “racing entity” as defendants.

“Alex Palou is under contract with Chip Ganassi Racing through the end of the 2023 season,” the team said in a Wednesday statement. “He is a valued member of our team, and we will continue to support him in chasing wins, podiums, and IndyCar championships.

“As the result of a competing racing team improperly attempting to contract with him notwithstanding the clear terms of our contract, we are proceeding to legal process pursuant to the contract. Any and all inquiries on the matter will be handled by our legal counsel.”

McLaren Racing head Zak Brown has repeatedly told The Associated Press that he signed Palou under the representation that Palou is a free agent. Brown has not decided where he’d use Palou, and the options range from a third seat in the IndyCar Series, a possible shot at a Formula One seat or even the new Formula E team it plans to launch next year.

Palou spent his first IndyCar season driving for Dale Coyne Racing in 2020 and then moved last year to Ganassi, where he won the championship and became the first driver since Dario Franchitti in 2012 to win races in Ganassi’s No. 10 car.

Ganassi on July 12 said he’d exercised the option on 2023 for Palou. Hours later, Palou issued a series of tweets stating he had no intention of returning to the team next year.

Minutes after Palou’s tweets, McLaren said it had signed the driver.

Palou has come under heavy scrutiny in the IndyCar paddock as the drama unfolds, with teammate Scott Dixon among those most critical of the way he’s handled the situation. Palou one month earlier had insisted he was not interested in leaving Ganassi, and now maintains his June statements were not a lie.

Palou is currently ranked sixth in the IndyCar standings, 44 points behind Indianapolis 500 winner and Ganassi teammate Marcus Ericsson. There are five races remaining in the season.

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