Álex Palou has done it again. The 26-year-old from Barcelona has been crowned Indycar champion for the second time after a brilliant season on the tracks and a cloudy one in the offices, since in just over a year he has been sued by two teams. He did it on the international racing circuit in Portland (Oregon), in the penultimate of the 17 championship races, with an outstanding performance in which he crossed the finish line first for the fifth time this season.
The distance with his teammate, Scott Dixon, the only one who could overshadow him, is already insurmountable with only one race to go. The 43-year-old Australian-born New Zealander is already an Indycar legend, with a record six championships, won over the past 20 years (2003, 2008, 2013, 2015, 2018 and 2020). A fearsome rival before whom Palou has maintained his coldness.
After crossing the finish line, Palou was happy to win the championship with a race victory. “That’s what we wanted, obviously. It’s been an amazing weekend overall, we had very fast cars. We knew we had to go for it and we’ve just done what we’ve been doing all season, so yeah, very proud to be here in victory lane, very proud of the second championship and 15th for the team.” has said in statements to the NBC cameras. “I never thought I would be an IndyCar champion and to win it twice is incredible, like a dream”, he added, thanking the team for the car, the pit stop strategy and all the hard work.
The race has been perfect from start to finish. A skilful maneuver in the launched start allowed the Catalan to gain two positions and place third, overtaking on the inside in the first corner and on the outside in the second. His rival, Scott Dixon, meanwhile, lost a place. Then the Spanish driver overtook Scott McLaughlin and when he was putting pressure on Graham Rahal, he went into the pits to refuel and change tires on lap 22 of the 110 lap of the race. Palou was in the lead and earned the extra point for leading the race by one lap. Dixon was second.
Rahal ran into traffic and Palou delayed his stop while he was gaining margin, driving masterfully. When she came out of the pits she was already in front of Rahal. Although he was third, the two drivers in front had not stopped yet. By lap 35 he was back in the lead and throughout that run he held it, with teammate and only title challenger Dixon second. But the second set of tires gave him a worse result and with Dixon hot on his heels he pitted on lap 49. He came out just ahead of traffic and He blocked the Brazilian Hélio Castroneves, who was trying to pass him, taking advantage of the fact that the Catalan pilot had still cold tires. He risked a penalty, but the stewards reviewed the maneuver and deemed it legal.
Dixon stopped on lap 61 and Palou was back in the lead with a gap of 9 seconds. His last pit stop came after lap 79. He returned to the track in sixth, but was the virtual leader. He regained first place with 26 laps to go and right there the Argentine Agustín Canapino’s exit from the track forced the safety car to come out. Palou was the leader, yes, but he had lost his advantage and a new 22-lap race began. Palou has not been surprised and has remained first until seeing the checkered flag. The Swede Felix Rosenqvist and his direct rival, Dixon, completed the podium.
Palou has been the most regular rider of the year. His worst position of the season has been an eighth place. But it was two prodigious months (between May 13 and July 2) in which he won four of the five races that allowed him to slip away in the standings. And he might have won all five if it hadn’t been for the fact that in the most prestigious of all, the Indianapolis 500, the Dutch driver Rinus VeeKay lost control of his car coming out of the pits and rammed the Spaniard’s car, which was able to recover and finish fourth. He had achieved the pole position and he wanted to make up for the race the previous year, when the Brazilian Hélio Castroneves overtook him with two laps to go.
The driver born in San Antonio Vilamajor (Barcelona) began competing in karts at the time when Fernando Alonso’s triumphs sparked a passion for the world of four wheels in Spain. He is from the generation of Max Verstappen and Charles Leclerc, but the lack of sufficient support prevented him from entering Formula 1. He went to compete in Japan and from there he made the leap to the United States, where his talent stood out from the beginning. In his first season he raced for Dale Coyne Racing, and in the second he signed for his current team, Chip Ganassi Racing, where he opened with victory in the first race and the championship at the end of the course. He was the first Spaniard and the fifth European to achieve it. With his second title, he is already fourth in the Indycar classification, a discipline inheriting from other competitions, but which has been held as such since 1996.
The Spaniard’s triumph comes in a year in which he initially intended to have competed in the McLaren Indycar team as a possible step prior to Formula 1. Chip Ganassi exercised his option to retain him and after suing his own driver, there was a three-way agreement for which he stayed in the team, but made it compatible with training with McLaren’s Formula 1. In recent weeks, the contract storm has raged again. Now it is the driver who wants to stay at Chip Ganassi and it is McLaren who has sued him, demanding 20 to 30 million dollars for alleged breach of contract, alleging that he had an agreement with the driver for next season.
The Indycar alternates the traditional American ovals with urban circuits and racetracks of different layouts. There is much greater equality than in Formula 1, since everyone is equipped with Dallara chassis and two engines: Chevrolet and Honda. The manufacturers’ classification (the two best drivers with each engine score) is very balanced with one race to go, although with more victories for Honda.
In the scoring system, the winner of a race gets 50 points, but can also add an extra point for the pole position, another for leading the race by one lap and 2 for leading the most laps. So Palou needed to leave Portland with a 54-point lead to be champion. He has achieved it in spades and for the first time since 2005 you don’t have to wait for the last Grand Prix to find out who the champion is.
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