PORTLAND, OR (Pittsburgh Racing Now) – Chip Ganassi Racing’s Alex Palou survived a first lap incident heading into Portland International Raceway’s first turn and came back to win Sunday’s NTT INDYCAR SERIES Grand Prix of Portland.
The victory was the third of the season for Palou, who regained the Championship points lead with the victory.
“It was massive,” Palou said of the victory. “I don’t think that much about the three wins or two wins. I think that’s important but not super. What I think is important is that even having a really bad start of the race, we were able to fight.”
Palou started on the pole position and was leading the field down the frontstretch with Alexander Rossi to his left in second place and Scott Dixon behind him to Palou’s inside in third when fourth-starting Felix Rosenqvist carried too much speed into the first turn. As Rosenqvist took evasive action he made contact with Dixon, which prevented the six-time series Champion from making turn one. Dixon went straight through the runoff area but that move prevented Palou and Rossi from making the turn too.
“I filled that gap because I figured Rahal or somebody was going to try and scoot down the inside of us,” explained Dixon. “I bailed out of it and then got hit from behind, I think it was Felix (Rosenqvist), and that caused a bit of an interesting moment for all of us on the start there.”
All four drivers went through the runoff area and rejoined the field however more turn one chaos was happening behind them as several drivers made contact or were forced to take evasive action to avoid contact bringing out the caution flag. Among the drivers sustaining damage were Helio Castroneves, James Hinchcliffe, Will Power, Romain Grosjean and Oliver Askew.
INDYCAR race control penalized Palou, Rossi, Dixon and Rosenqvist and sent them to the back of the field for not taking the first turn, which mystified the drivers.
“I got hit at some point,” said Palou. “I knew Scott was on the inside, so I couldn’t really go there, so I knew I had to go through the chicane. I made it through the chicane, and I said, ‘okay, I only lost like five positions’, which is a lot, but I said, ‘at least I’m not out’. And then INDYCAR decided that that was not penalizing enough, and they put me in the back, which I don’t know what they want me to do at that point. Do they prefer me to like completely stop the car and make that corner, making the race unsafe?”
“It was just the craziest thing I’ve ever seen, and I’ve been in racing a little while,” explained Dixon. “I don’t know what they (race control) were thinking or how that came about, but put all of us at the back the field. Be interesting to go talk to them later and see how they came up with that scenario.”
“I thought it was pretty low grip in Turn 1 when Felix, I guess — when Scott and Alex and them kind of slid through, I didn’t really have anywhere to go, and I thought if we got back to the styrofoam chicane, that was acceptable,” said Rossi. “But it was self-penalizing because we all went from like first, second, third to sixth, seventh, eighth, and then they’re like, ‘oh, you’re going to 24th’. It was like, okay, cool. But fortunately it all came around.”
INDYCAR rules state that cars avoiding the collision and remaining on the racing surface at the timing lines embedded in the track through the chicane are placed at the front of the field on the restart, with drivers avoiding the collision but leaving the racetrack placed behind them, followed by drivers involved in the incident.
The reshuffling of the field and subsequent restart saw Arrow McLaren SP’s Pato O’Ward, who was leading the Championship by 10-points coming into the weekend, take the early lead with Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing’s Graham Rahal right behind in second place. Those two remained out front until their first round of pit stops.
The second caution flag came out on lap 52 when rookie Callum Ilott and Dalton Kellett both slowed on different parts of the track. Several drivers elected to pit for service but Rahal elected to stay out and led until Lap 74, when he and second-place Ed Jones pitted to hand the lead to Jack Harvey.
Pit stop strategy eventually worked out in the favor of Palou, Rossi and Dixon. Palou, who made his final stop on Lap 79, one lap before teammate Dixon, took the lead for good on Lap 86 and survived two late restarts and was able to hold off Rossi and Dixon for the win.
Two races remain in the season-long championship, WeatherTech Raceway at Laguna Seca and the Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach, where the 2021 Champion will be crowned.
“Clearly we are in the fight,” said Palou of his Championship chances. “But I think until Long Beach we are not going to know really who’s what. I think that many people today after the first lap thought that Pato was going to win and that we were going to lose 40 points, and it was the opposite. That’s why INDYCAR is INDYCAR, which is really good. I think that makes the racing super exciting and the championship super exciting until the end.”
Jimmie Johnson to run the full 2022 NTT INDYCAR Series Season for Chip Ganassi
INDIANAPOLIS, IN (Pittsburgh Racing Now) – Jimmie Johnson is adding the full 2022 NTT INDYCAR SERIES schedule to his racing activities for the upcoming year.
Johnson competed in 12-road and street course events for Chip Ganassi Racing in 2021 and finished the season by testing on the ovals at Texas Motor Speedway and the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. The 2021 experience and oval tests only served to ignite Johnson’s passion to compete in ‘The Greatest Spectacle In Racing’.
“I’m really excited about this next chapter of my career,” said Johnson. “The safety of these cars has come so far, and after I tested the ovals at Texas and Indianapolis Motor Speedway, I realized this was a challenge I wanted to undertake.”
— Carvana Racing (@CarvanaRacing) December 15, 2021
Online automobile retailer Carvana returns to sponsor Johnson and will be on the No. 48 Honda for the Indianapolis 500 and every race except Iowa, where associate sponsor the American Legion will be featured.
“I can’t wait to be part of the Indianapolis 500, it’s a childhood dream come true,” said Johnson. “Last season was so incredible for me and I made a lot of progress, so I know I can be competitive on tracks that I have experience on.”
— Jimmie Johnson (@JimmieJohnson) December 15, 2021
Team owner Chip Ganassi is equally fired-up to see Johnson get back behind the wheel of one of his race cars.
“I am looking forward to seeing Jimmie get back on the track after having a year under his belt,” said Ganassi. “With all the experience he has on ovals from his NASCAR career and adding it to his 2021 experience in an Indy car, we think the IndyCar ovals will play right into his strength. I can’t wait for the 2022 season to begin.”
An announcement on the role of Tony Kanaan, who drove the No. 48 Honda in the oval races in 2021, is expected after the Holidays.
Chip Ganassi Racing’s Alex Palou Wins NTT INDYCAR SERIES Championship
LONG BEACH, CA (Pittsburgh Racing Now) – In just his first year with the team Chip Ganassi Racing’s Alex Palou is your 2021 NTT INDYCAR SERIES Champion.
Palou’s 4th-place finish in Sunday’s season-ending Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach guaranteed the 24-year-old native of Spain his first INDYCAR Championship in his second season and the Ganassi team their 14th title since 1996.
“This team is amazing,” said Palou. “I’m super proud to be a part of Chip Ganassi Racing, all our partners. I’m super proud to be a champion and for the opportunity these guys gave me. What a race, what a year, what a season.”
“People win Championships,” said team owner Chip Ganassi. “The driver, the team, and especially the people behind the scenes, leaving the shop in the winter when it’s dark out and snowing, that don’t get the notoriety.”
Palou started the race in tenth position in the No. 10 NTT Data Honda. Palou’s closest Championship rival, Arrow McLaren SP’s Pato O’Ward, started the race in eighth position. Team Penske’s Josef Newgarden started on the pole position with Palou’s CGR teammate Scott Dixon alongside in second place in the No. 9 PNC Bank Grow Up Great Honda.
Newgarden took the lead in turn one with Dixon in tow as the field took the green flag. The race wasn’t even 2-laps old when Dale Coyne Racing with Vasser Sullivan’s Ed Jones made an ambitious attempt to pass James Hinchcliffe, but made contact with O’Ward with Palou right behind Jones!
📲: INDYCAR APP – https://t.co/vyuISIyifv
— NTT INDYCAR SERIES (@IndyCar) September 26, 2021
O’Ward brought out the caution flag a short time later on lap 20 when the right rear driveshaft failed on the front stretch.
— NTT INDYCAR SERIES (@IndyCar) September 26, 2021
The caution flag shuffled the field as some cars went to pit road for service while other cars stayed out to gain track position, giving the lead to Helio Castroneves, who took a turn at the front of the field until he went to pit road on lap 34, giving the lead to Colton Herta.
Herta earned his turn at the front as he was making moves through the field throughout the race and following the last restart, it was Newgarden and Dixon giving chase. Palou was behind Dixon in fourth doing what he needed to get the car to the checkered flag in one piece.
Herta pulled away in the end to a .5883-second victory, his ?? win of 2021. Newgarden finished second to jump O’Ward for second in the Championship, 38-points behind Palou.
Dixon finished third followed by Palou in fourth. Team Penske’s Simon Pagenaud rounded out the Top 5.
Alexander Rossi, Jack Harvey, Sebastian Bourdais, Takuma Sato and Will Power made up spots 6 through 10.
Honda claimed the Engine Manufacturer’s Championship for the fourth straight year.
Josef Newgarden wins pole position for INDYCAR Acura Long Beach Grand Prix
LONG BEACH, CA (Pittsburgh Racing Now) – Team Penske’s Josef Newgarden is on the pole position for Sunday’s NTT INDYCAR SERIES season-ending Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach.
Newgarden’s fast lap of 1-minute, 8.2241-seconds around the 11-turn, 1.968-mile street circuit was .2181-seconds faster than Chip Ganassi Racing’s Scott Dixon’s best lap in the No. 9 PNC Bank Grow Up Great Honda.
The pole position and valuable Championship point is exactly what Newgarden needs to do to win his third series title. Newgarden enters the race in third position in the standings, 48-points behind leader Alex Palou, and must win, lead the most laps and hope Palou finishes 25th or worse.
“It’s very improbable for us to win this championship,” Newgarden said. “So, our goal is to win the race tomorrow. Let’s finish our season on a high note, and we’ll see what happens. I think it’s pretty unlikely, but you never say never in this sport.”
The only other driver with a shot at the Championship is Arrow McLaren SP’s Pato O’Ward, who will start eighth in the 28-car field. O’Ward also needs to win and hope for Palou to finish 25th or worse.
“Our car has been good,” said O’Ward. “We didn’t roll off the best, but I think we made some really good changes, just kept improving. We had enough for the Fast 6.”
Palou will start 10th in the No. 10 NTT Data Chip Ganassi Racing Honda. Palou and O’Ward were on flying laps when they were forced to slow for a local yellow for Will Power, costing both valuable lap time which eventually cost both the ability to advance to the final round of knockout-style qualifying.
“That yellow flag didn’t help us at all,” said Palou. “I think we were going to be easy through, but racing stuff, right? I’m happy because the car’s good, a bit better than yesterday and this morning.”
“Kind of sucks to get hosed by a very odd call,” added O’Ward. “We should have been in the Fast 6.”
Palou must finish 12th or better – or 13th or better if he leads a lap – to clinch his first NTT INDYCAR SERIES championship and CGR’s 14th title since 1996!
Live coverage of the 85-lap race starts at 3 p.m. (ET) Sunday on NBCSN and the INDYCAR Radio Network. A 30-minute warmup starts at noon (ET), live on Peacock Premium.