BIRMINGHAM, AL (Pittsburgh Racing Now) – Alex Palou’s teammates have multiple Championships but on Sunday Palou accomplished something those Champions didn’t, winning in his debut with Chip Ganassi Racing.
Palou beat Will Power by 0.402-seconds to capture the NTT INDYCAR SERIES season opening Honda Grand Prix of Alabama. Palou’s teammate and defending Champion Scott Dixon finished third, giving CGR 2 of the 3 podium spots.
“It was an amazing weekend,” said Palou, a native of Spain. “I’m super, super proud of the team. The team did an amazing job. Today they gave me the best car. I just had to do the obvious things right as Chip likes to say. I’m just super, super happy.”
Palou started third behind pole sitter Pato O’Ward of Arrow McLaren SP and Alexander Rossi of Andretti Autosport.
The race was barely green when Team Penske’s Josef Newgarden got loose and spun in front of half the field.
“I got loose coming over the hill,” said Newgarden. “I just got loose in the wake. I thought I had the car (saved) and then touched the grass. I think once I touched the grass it pitched me sideways. Obviously my mess created a bigger mess.”
Ryan Hunter Reay, Colton Herta, Felix Rosenqvist, Max Chilton and Rinus Veekay all suffered some type of damage. Veekay was able to continue. Chilton, Rosenqvist and Herta eventually returned to the race several laps down after making repairs.
The race restarted on lap 8 with O’Ward leading Rossi, Palou, Power and Dixon making up the top 5. The field appeared to settle in at that point until the second caution of the day came out when Jimmie Johnson spun the No. 48 Carvana Honda.
“As we got two yellows it was clear,” said Palou of the possibility of a two-stop strategy. “As soon as the first yellow came I was already thinking two stops. I was trying to save as much fuel as possible there.”
The race restarted on lap 13 and saw no change in the top 5 until O’Ward and Rossi hit pit road on lap 20 for their first pit stops, handing the lead to Palou.
“To be honest I saw that Rossi and Pato, they were not saving that much fuel and I was wondering, ‘are they going to not even try to do it or do they just know how to do it and not me?’ I was surprised that they didn’t go for a two-stop because I think it was fairly easy after the two yellows. Hey, I didn’t call a two-stop, it was the team. They just told me now is the time to push. Do 15-more laps and this is the target for fuel mileage that you have do. That’s what I did and it worked.”
Palou made his first pit stop on lap 32 for the Firestone primary black sidewall tires with Power inheriting the lead followed by Dixon, Ericsson and Romain Grosjean, who all made pit stops in the following three laps.
O’Ward came to pit road on lap 42 for his second stop handing the lead back to Palou with 48-laps to go. Rossi hit pit road a lap later.
Palou stayed out front and the only question was whether the race would remain caution free to allow the strategy to play out.
The first driver on the two-stop strategy to make his final pit stop was Ericsson, who pitted for the final time on lap 61 while running fourth. Palou and Dixon pitted a lap later.
Power pitted from the lead on lap 62 followed by Graham Rahal and Grosjean. Power came out behind Palou but ahead of Dixon with O’Ward inheriting the lead but needing one more pit stop.
O’Ward pitted on lap 67 and came off pit road and settled into the fifth spot behind Ericsson.
Palou inherited the lead followed by Power and Dixon. Palou built a lead of 2.4-seconds but in the waning laps got caught behind traffic allowing Power and Dixon to close the gap but neither was able to challenge Palou.
The next event is the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg on Sunday, April 25 (live coverage starts at noon ET on NBC, INDYCAR Radio Network). The first practice starts at 4:15 p.m. (ET) Friday, April 23 (live on Peacock Premium).
— Sycamore Entertainment Group Inc (@sycamorefilms) April 18, 2021
Scott Dixon looking to get season and title fight on track at Mid-Ohio
LEXINGTON, OH (Pittsburgh Racing Now) – PNC Bank Chip Ganassi Racing’s Scott Dixon is looking to get back to victory lane and the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Complex could be exactly what ‘the Iceman’ needs.
Chip Ganassi Racing has 11-wins at Mid-Ohio, the 13-turn 2.258-mile permanent road course 181-miles West of Pittsburgh. The list of winners includes Alex Zanardi (1996, 1997), Juan Pablo Montoya (1999), Dario Franchitti (2010), Charlie Kimball (2013) and Dixon (2007, 2009, 2011, 2012, 2014, 2019).
“I think the last to first of course was probably the best one,” recalled Dixon. “Obviously the most unexpected one where I think where we were able to save a ton of fuel. We kind of caught a caution, which I think was Ryan Hunter-Reay, at the perfect time and went on to win”.
The 1-2 finish between he and one of his CGR teammates was one of the most memorable too.
“I think that probably was the craziest one was with Felix Rosenqvist, a few years back, where it was a two-stop strategy against a three-stop strategy. We drove the tires off, and I think I had a whole logjam behind me the last three or four laps.”
Dixon and the No. 9 PNC Bank Honda team is looking up at a logjam in the NTT INDYCAR SERIES Championship where Dixon sits sixth, 67-points behind teammate Marcus Ericsson.
“I think as a group and as a team, we just haven’t been getting the job done,” said Dixon, a 6-time Series Champion. “I was hoping that the Indy 500 was going to be that turn and kick that we needed, but yeah, it’s been an interesting year, lots of ups and downs and some missed opportunities. We’ll keep after it.”
Dixon, and his teammates, have come up as part of rumors swirling about driver movement in coming seasons. Dixon said he has not been part of those conversations and is happy where he is at.
“I haven’t been a part of any of these conversations, so not really sure where a lot of these things come from,” said Dixon. “Obviously people talk. I even got a few messages from people asking about the same thing. For me I love doing what I’m doing, I love being a part of the team that I’m with, and who knows what comes in the future, but as of right now just focusing on this season. Yeah, that’s all I’ve got to say really. There’s nothing to it.”
Josef Newgarden puts the PPG colors in victory lane at Road America
ELKHART LAKE, WI (Pittsburgh Racing Now) – Josef Newgarden leapfrogged leader Alexander Rossi during green flag pit stops and held off a hard-charging Marcus Ericsson late in the race to win Sunday’s NTT INDYCAR SERIES Sonsio Grand Prix at Road America.
The victory was Newgarden’s third of the year and came with a $1-million dollar bonus from PeopleReady. The bonus went to the first driver to win on an oval (Texas) a street course (Long Beach) and a road course (Road America). The money will be spit with half going to Newgarden and Team Penske and the other half to charities of Newgarden’s choice.
“To finally get it done and most importantly to give that money to charity, half of that money is going to charity with SeriousFun Network and Wags and Walks Nashville,” said Newgarden. “I hope they’re happy about it, that’s a lot of money coming their way.”
Newgarden started second and tucked in behind Rossi, the pole sitter, for the first 14-laps when the first round of green flag pit stops took place. Newgarden’s No. 2 PPG Chevy crew got the two-time Series Champion out ahead of Rossi and as the rest of the field completed their stops. Newgarden inherited the lead.
“You’ve got to be on your toes at all times (in this series),” said Newgarden. “You can go in with a plan, but you probably have to change your plan 90 percent of the time once the race starts to unfold.”
Indianapolis 500 winner Marcus Ericsson finished second in the No. 8 Huski Chocolate Chip Ganassi Racing Honda after passing Rossi on a late restart. The runner-up finish came despite Ericsson making contact with his teammate, and defending Series Champion, Alex Palou while racing for third in Turn 5 on Lap 4.
“First of all, I’m really sorry,” Ericsson said. “You never want to have contact with a teammate. From my point of view, the door was open, and I was already side by side. If you see a gap, you go for it. It’s important at the beginning of the race to get track position.”
Ericsson regained the points lead with the second place finish and sits 27-points ahead of 2nd place Will Power (293-266). Power, last week’s winner at Detroit, finished 19th after rookie Devlin Defrancesco punted Power into the Turn 5 wall early in the race.
The next NTT INDYCAR SERIES race is The Honda Indy 200 at Mid-Ohio presented by the All-New Civic Type R on Sunday, July 3 (noon ET, NBC, Peacock Premium, INDYCAR Radio Network). Mid-Ohio is the closest track to Pittsburgh that the NTT INDYCAR SERIES races.
Racing Notebook: Rossi on INDYCAR pole; Larson on Cup pole; Busch wins Truck Race
Sunday’s Racing Notebook has details on the starting lineups for the NTT INDYCAR SERIES race at Road America and the NASCAR Cup Series race at Sonoma as well as Kyle Busch winning another truck series race>
Rossi on INDYCAR Series Pole:
- Andretti Autosports Alexander Rossi earned his first NTT INDYCAR SERIES pole position in three years by beating Team Penske’s Josef Newgarden in knockout-style qualifying for Sunday’s race at Road America. Rossi’s fast lap of 1 minute, 44.8656 seconds edged Newgarden’s 1:44.9371 in the No. 2 PPG Chevrolet. Defending series champion Alex Palou, who led the final warmup session on Saturday afternoon, qualified third at 1:45.3822 in the No. 10 American Legion Chip Ganassi Racing Honda. Teammate and 2022 Indianapolis 500 winner Marcus Ericsson joins Palou in the second row after his best lap of 1:45.4240 in the No. 8 Huski Chocolate Chip Ganassi Racing Honda. Road America INDYCAR Lineup
Larson Leads Hendrick Cup Series Front Row:
- Hendrick Motorsports Kyle Larson is on the pole position for Sunday’s NASCAR Cup Series race at Sonoma. Larson’s fast lap of 92.111 mph (1m70.776s) edged teammate Chase Elliott’s 92.083 mph in the No. 9 NAPA Chevrolet. Roush Fenway Keselowski Racing’s Chris Buescher qualified third at 91.919 mph after missing last week’s race due to Covid-19. Michael McDowell starts fourth after posting a fast lap of 91.916. Sonoma Cup Lineup
Kyle Busch Wins Truck Series Race:
- Kyle Busch held off Zane Smith to earn his first NASCAR Camping World Truck Series victory of the year Saturday at Sonoma. The win extended his record career total to 62 series victories and a streak of 10 consecutive years with at least one series win. Busch led 45 of the 75 laps in the victory. Wexford’s Kris Wright finished 26th in the No. 44 FNB Chevrolet after starting 30th in his first race at Sonoma. Sonoma Truck Results