Palou as INDYCAR Champion might become a regular thing. Is this how it’s going to be for a while in the NTT INDYCAR SERIES? We’re speaking of Alex Palou and Chip Ganassi Racing’s No. 10 Honda, and the Astor Cup that series officials present to its season champion at year’s end.
Palou is the champ for the second time in three years, and it could be argued that he easily could be on a three-fer if not for, well, that little legal trouble in 2022. Palou is the closest thing this series has to Scott Dixon, which is ironic because that’s who Dixon sees each time he walks into a team meeting. Basically, he sees himself: Smart, tactical and wicked fast all the same time. Imagine if Palou ever learns all of Dixon’s fuel-saving tricks. Would there ever be another driver who could dethrone him? Two titles in three years? How about three in four or four in five. It could happen. What Palou has shown the motorsports world over the past calendar year is that he has the stones to throw at any challenger. Except for that hiccup last summer, when he professed his desire to join Arrow McLaren and then gave him to rejoin Chip Ganassi, he has been the essence of excellence. The unflappable 26-year-old Spaniard ended the recently completed season with 18 consecutive top-eight finishes, and truth be told he was better than that. He won six of those races – an impressive 33 percent – and since joining Ganassi’s organization at the start of the 2021 season, he has been almost unbeatable.
Think about this: Palou has now completed in 50 races for Chip. He has … wait for it … 24 top-three finishes, including nine wins. Poor Palou: He’s only won three poles, one of those for this year’s Indianapolis 500. Over the past three seasons, Team Penske’s Josef Newgarden has two more wins than Palou – 11 – but he has fewer podiums (17) and no series titles. Dixon, in basically the same equipment as Palou, has six wins and 15 podiums, and it took winning three of the final four races of this season for the six-time series champion to even come close to what Palou has done in this span.
Where hasn’t Palou won? Here are four races that stand out:
1. The 2021 Indianapolis 500. He finished second to a fella right fair at Indianapolis Motor
Speedway. You’ve heard of him. The chap named Helio.
2. The 2022 Indianapolis 500. He was leading the race and headed to pit road for what
should have been a routine stop. Maybe 100 yards from the commit line. Caution comes
out, but he can’t change his path and draws a penalty for venturing into a closed pit.
Spends the rest of the race scrambling back to finish ninth.
3. The 2023 Indianapolis 500. Minding his own business as the race leader with a pit stop
at the halfway point. Leaving his pit box. Rinus VeeKay hits him. Race appears over, it
seems, but then it isn’t. He drops all the way to 28th in a 33-car order but rallies to finish
fourth. Over those three years, he’s led 118 laps, never fewer than 35 in any of the
starts. Still, no wins in the Greatest Spectacle in Racing.
4. The 2023 Firestone Grand Prix of Monterey. He dominates the race, leading 51 of the
first 58 laps. Then he gets caught out by the caution and falls to 15th.
No matter, he has already clinched the season championship, but he soldiers on. Ho, hum. Another third-place finish. No harm done. On to 2024, where another title march awaits.
Next year, INDYCAR introduces its hybrid technology, and the game likely changes some. A few
teams will improve, others will slide. Marcus Ericsson will have moved to Andretti Autosport,
Felix Rosenqvist will be at Meyer Shank Racing, and Team Penske’s three-star lineup will look
the same. Arrow McLaren will probably win a few races. Will it matter? Doubt it.
Palou will still be Palou, racking up podium finishes. Count on it.
Check the website out today for genuine, Alex Palou, Scott Dixon, and other IndyCar stars race used items and signed artwork.