Spanish Youngster Alex Palou, driving his first race for Chip Ganassi Racing, withstood intense pressure from veterans Will Power, Scott Dixon and polesitter Pato O’Ward to win his first IndyCar race in the #10 Segi sponsored Honda.
Power finished 2nd, Dixon 3rd, O’Ward, who led 25 laps, 4th,while Sebastien Bourdais rounded out the top-5 in the #14 AJ Foyt Chevy.
Palou led a race high 56 of 90 laps.
“We knew (a win) was possible because we knew we had the best team and the best cars,” Palou said. “It’s amazing to be part of the winning drivers, said Palou.
Rinus Veekay came home 6th ahead of Graham Rahal and Marcus Ericsson (who had to slow due to being low on fuel) in 7th and 8th respectively.
Outside polesitter Alexander Rossi got taken to school all day long and finished way down in 9th, over 20 seconds behind the winner.
Ex F1 driver Romain Grosjean came home 10th for Dale Coyne Racing.
The race started with a bang when Josef Newgarden hit the grass with his left front and lost control of his #2 Penske Chevy in front of almost the entire field. He was hit like a pinball by several calls and his accident ruined the race for Max Chilton, Felix Rosenqvist, Colton Herta, and Ryan Hunter-Reay.
“I got loose coming over the hill. It was a good start,” said Newgarden. ”
We were lining in pretty nicely, but I just got loose in the wake. I thought I had the car and then touched the grass and I think once I touched the grass it pitched me sideways. I feel really bad for anyone that got involved in that.
“Obviously, my mess created a bigger mess. Any of the cars that got involved, I’m real sorry because it was obviously us that tipped it off. It’s a shame. I feel like we had a really good car. We just needed to file-in there at the start. We partially did that but yeah. Wudda, shudda, cudda I guess for Hitachi and Chevrolet. But we’ll come back. We’ve just got to bounce back at the next one.”
The race, held under sunny skies and before a capacity-allowed crowd of 20,000, developed into a clash of strategies for the first 70 laps. Palou, Power, Dixon and Marcus Ericsson were among the leading lights who opted for a two-stop strategy, while O’Ward, Bourdais and Graham Rahal were among the contenders who chose a three-stop strategy.
Two stops became the golden ticket, as Palou, Power and Dixon ended up on the podium. But once each of the contenders had made their final stops, regardless of strategy, the race became a contest of brilliant driving and deft usage of Push-to-Pass, not a game of clever fuel mileage calculations on the pit box.
It was the best of both worlds of INDYCAR.
Power scorched the track with fast in and out laps around his last pit stop in the No. 12 Verizon 5G Chevrolet. Palou led Power by 5.1284 seconds when the Spaniard made his final stop on Lap 60. Power made his final stop on Lap 62 and had trimmed the margin to Palou to 2.3901 seconds on Lap 68, one circuit after Palou took the lead for good when O’Ward made his final stop.
Over the closing laps, Power began to nibble at Palou’s lead through pace and more available Push-to-Pass in his No. 12 Verizon 5G Team Penske Chevrolet.
The gap evaporated to 1.8038 seconds on Lap 83 of 90, with Power having nearly twice the Push-to-Pass seconds in his firesuit pocket as Palou. The Spaniard had the further complication of dealing with the turbulence from the rear wing of the No. 20 U.S. Air Force Chevrolet of Conor Daly, who was just ahead of him and racing to stay on the lead lap.
Power closed to within 1.1160 seconds with two laps to go, but Palou padded that margin to 1.8311 seconds at the white flag and staved off everything Power had over the final lap for victory.
“I made one little mistake in (Turn) 9, but with the amount of Push-to-Pass I had left, it could have been pretty good,” Power said. “We had to save some fuel, but I had enough to use Push-to-Pass the last two laps.
“It just blew my mind how fast Alex was in that first stint. I had absolutely nothing for him. He just pulled away, so I figured he was on a three-stop race. I was getting the best lap time I could for the fuel number.”
Said Palou: “It was one of those days when everything went well. We had good fuel mileage, good tire management and good pace.”
Palou’s early fast pace after starting third helped him build a lead of 6.6 seconds shortly before his first pit stop on Lap 31 and a gap of 8.4 seconds on Lap 49. His average speed was 110.025 mph in a rapid race that featured 10 lead changes and just two caution periods for eight laps.
“We were the fastest car here all weekend,” said a dejected O’Ward. “We were the fastest car on the racetrack during the race. But unfortunately, we were just on the wrong strategy. We went on a three-stopper to cover for Rossi and unfortunately, track position was everything.
“When I caught up to the lead pack in the end, there weren’t many laps to go. We got stuck there the last 1-2 laps and brought home fourth. It’s good points for the championship, but we have to maintain the consistency. Our first win will have to wait, hopefully at St. Pete. We will be ready to fight there.”
The second caution came on Lap 10 when seven-time NASCAR Cup Series champion Jimmie Johnson spun in the No. 48 Carvana Chip Ganassi Racing Honda. Johnson recovered to finish 19th in his eagerly anticipated NTT INDYCAR SERIES debut.
Fellow rookie Romain Grosjean finished 10th in his series debut in the No. 51 Nurtec ODT Honda, while rookie Scott McLaughlin placed 14th in the No. 3 PPG Team Penske Chevrolet.
“We got p14, which isn’t bad,” said McLaughlin. “I got held up mid-race, which was disappointing, but I didn’t have the car and I didn’t want to push it either. We ended up getting to them, but it just took too long. I wanted to get a whole race under my belt, which we did. The PPG Chevrolet was great and the pit stops were fantastic. I can’t wait for St. Pete.”
WILL POWER, NO. 12 VERIZON 5G TEAM PENSKE CHEVROLET – FINISHED 2ND:
“YOU PUT UP A GOOD FIGHT. YOU HAD A LOT MORE PUSH TO PASS LEFT THAN ALEX PALOU. WHAT MORE, IF ANYTHING, COULD YOU HAVE DONE THERE IN THOSE CLOSING LAPS?
“Yeah, I made one little mistake. Yes, you’re right. With the amount of push to pass I had left, it could have been pretty good. I did have to save some fuel, so I had enough to be able to use push to pass for the last two laps. But it just blew my mind how fast Alex was in that first stint. I had absolutely nothing for him. He just pulled away. So, I figured he was doing a three-stop race because I was getting the best lap time I could for the fuel number. But we got the Verizon 5G car on the podium. We’ve had a pretty bad start to the year the last four years, so it’s awesome to get a really good start to the season.”
SINCE THERE ARE FOUR RACES IN JUST A MATTER OF THREE WEEKS, WHAT DOES THIS DO FOR THE TEAM TO START OFF SO STRONGLY?
“Yeah, it’s great. It’s great. I said to the guys if we do this week in and week out, just solid races with no mistakes, I promise you we will absolutely have a great chance at winning the championship.”
PATO O’WARD, NO. 5 ARROW MCLAREN SP CHEVROLET – FINISHED 4TH
WHAT’S YOUR TAKEAWAY FROM THE RACE THIS AFTERNOON?
“Track position was everything today. I feel like we executed on what we went for, strategy-wise. Unfortunately, it was the wrong one. But I’ve got to give it to these guys. We were the fastest car on track today. We’ve been the fastest car all weekend in terms of qualifying and pace; and we’re ready for St. Pete. We got good points here. I would have loved to get the win, but we’ve got another shot next weekend and we’re going to be going for it. I just want to thank Arrow Electronics, Arrow McLaren SP, Team Chevy; these guys have been on it. I’m one hundred percent sure that when St. Pete comes in a few days, we’ll be ready to give it our all.”
SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS, NO. 4 ROKIT AJ RACING CHEVROLET, FINIDHED 5TH
“Really good run today for the No. 14 ROKIT Chevrolet for AJ Foyt Racing. A very solid day, a very solid race. Good strategies and good pit stops. And good pace. Really happy for the whole team. We overcame a dodgy day starting 16th. Put on a good show and put on a show. Passed a lot of cars. I’m really happy for everybody and looking forward to. St. Pete.”
|1||10||Alex Palou||90||0.0000||0.0000||2||56||3||Honda||53||Chip Ganassi Racing|
|2||12||Will Power||90||0.4016||0.4016||2||4||4||Chevy||41||Team Penske|
|3||9||Scott Dixon||90||2.9881||2.5865||2||0||5||Honda||35||Chip Ganassi Racing|
|4||5||Pato O’Ward||90||3.9741||0.9860||3||25||1||Chevy||34||Arrow McLaren SP|
|5||14||Sebastien Bourdais||90||10.6967||6.7226||3||4||16||Chevy||31||AJ Foyt Enterprises|
|6||21||Rinus VeeKay||90||13.8750||3.1783||4||1||14||Chevy||29||Ed Carpenter Racing|
|7||15||Graham Rahal||90||18.7387||4.8637||3||00||18||Honda||26||Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing|
|8||8||Marcus Ericsson||90||20.0700||1.3313||2||0||6||Honda||24||Chip Ganassi Racing|
|9||27||Alexander Rossi||90||20.5601||0.4901||3||0||2||Honda||22||Andretti Autosport|
|10||51||Romain Grosjean||90||45.0805||24.5204||2||0||7||Honda||20||Dale Coyne Racing w/Rick Ware Racing|
|11||60||Jack Harvey||90||50.0788||4.9983||3||0||11||Honda||19||Meyer Shank Racing|
|12||22||Simon Pagenaud||90||59.0522||8.9734||3||0||15||Chevy||18||Team Penske|
|13||30||Takuma Sato||90||65.5887||6.5365||3||0||19||Honda||17||Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing|
|14||3||Scott McLaughlin||90||66.0562||0.4675||3||0||12||Chevy||16||Team Penske|
|15||18||Ed Jones||90||68.4093||2.3531||3||0||13||Honda||15||Dale Coyne Racing with Vasser Sullivan|
|16||20||Conor Daly||90||69.1076||0.6983||3||0||10||Chevy||14||Ed Carpenter Racing|
|17||29||James Hinchcliffe||89||1 LAPS||25.2508||3||0||24||Honda||13||Andretti Steinbrenner Autosport|
|18||4||Dalton Kellett||89||1 LAPS||38.1203||4||0||23||Chevy||12||AJ Foyt Enterprises|
|19||48||Jimmie Johnson||87||3 LAPS||1 LAPS||3||0||21||Honda||11||Chip Ganassi Racing|
|20||59||Max Chilton||86||4 LAPS||58.1504||5||0||20||Chevy||10||Carlin|
|21||7||Felix Rosenqvist||62||15 LAPS||11 LAPS||5||0||22||Chevy||9||Arrow McLaren SP|
|22||26||Colton Herta||25||40 LAPS||26 LAPS||3||0||9||Honda||8||Andretti Autosport|
|23||2||Josef Newgarden||—||0.5585||0.5585||Crash||0||8||Chevy||7||Team Penske|
|24||28||Ryan Hunter-Reay||—||1.4886||–||Crash||0||17||Honda||6||Andretti Autosport|
Lead Change Summary
On Lap Car Leader
1 5 O’Ward, Pato
18 10 Palou, Alex
31 12 Power, Will
34 14 Bourdais, Sebastien
37 5 O’Ward, Pato
42 10 Palou, Alex
61 12 Power, Will
62 14 Bourdais, Sebastien
63 21 VeeKay, Rinus
64 5 O’Ward, Pato
67 10 Palou, Alex