IndyCar: Palou outdrives Rossi to win GP of Portland

Alex Palou never raced at Portland International Raceway before Sunday, but that did not stop him from winning pole and then schooling Alexander Rossi to win the GP of Portland IndyCar race in the #10 PNC Ganassi Honda by 1.2895s.

Palou schooling Rossi

Within 1/2-sec of the leader, Rossi appeared to have the pace to make a pass on Palou, but Rossi choked like he usually does, put his #27 Napa Andretti Honda right side wheels off in the dirt with 10 laps to go and fell back to almost 1.5s behind Palou, and he was never able to make up the deficit.

Palou earned his series-best third victory this season.

“We kept our heads down, and we knew the race was really long,” Palou said. “I cannot believe it. We made it (on fuel). The guys made it. They just gave me the numbers, and we just follow it. The strategy was amazing.”

Alexander Rossi, choked again

Palou’s PNC Ganassi Honda teammate Scott Dixon came home third ahead of Jack Harvey and Josef Newgarden in 4th and 5th.

The race started off with the usual crash in Turn 1 as the IndyCar drivers do not appear skilled enough to get through Turn 1 without crashing, which they do every year. The only year they did not look like a bunch of wankers was in 2007 when the Champ Car race was started from a standing start.

That kerfuffle mixed up the field, put the original leaders toward the back of the field, and opened up the race to various race strategies.  All the top finishers in the race made an early pitstop under that long caution and that proved to be the winning strategy.

It was a Honda power 1-2-3-4 result, and Palou reassumed the point lead in the championship with 477 points to Pato O’Ward with 452 points, a 25-point cushion with two races to go – Firestone Grand Prix of Monterey on Sunday, Sept. 19 and the Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach on Sunday, Sept. 26.

O’Ward led 28 laps early in the race but faded in the second half in the No. 5 Arrow McLaren SP Chevrolet, finishing 14th.

Two-time series champion Newgarden is third in the standings, 34 points behind Palou. Dixon is fourth, 49 points behind the leader, and Marcus Ericsson is fifth, 75 points back. Ericsson finished seventh in the No. 8 Huski Chocolate Chip Ganassi Racing Honda.

“I don’t care that much about the points at this moment,” Palou said. “I think the race we did today, it’s just amazing. Not me, but the guys, with the strategy, with the pit stops, with everything. With all the bad luck we had, we still won. I’m proud about that. Fried chicken tonight!”

Alex Palou

Palou and Dixon both overshot Turns 1 and 2 of the three-turn chicane at the end of the front straight after Dixon’s car was nudged from behind by the No. 7 Arrow McLaren SP Chevrolet of Felix Rosenqvist, who also went wide in Turn 1 along with Colton Herta’s No. 26 Gainbridge Honda and others.

Neither Palou nor Dixon suffered damage in the melee that triggered the first of four caution periods in the race. But five drivers in the mid-pack and rear of the field – Will Power, Romain Grosjean, Oliver Askew, James Hinchcliffe and Helio Castroneves – all were forced to the pits or paddock for repairs after contact in the fracas. Hinchcliffe was unable to continue.

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.

That caused a massive reshuffle of the order, as O’Ward and Rahal claimed first and second on the restart on Lap 11 because they stayed on track and clean in the first-lap incident. Meanwhile, Palou was moved to 16th, Dixon 17th, Rosenqvist 18th, Rossi 19th, Newgarden 21st and Herta 22nd for the restart after INDYCAR officials reviewed timing loop data, and those drivers’ long road back toward the front began.

Palou, Dixon, Herta and Rossi were among the drivers who pitted under yellow on Lap 9. Those stops triggered a tactical battle of varying fuel and pit strategies for the rest of the race, as teams and drivers decided whether to overcut or undercut rivals with fast pit-in and pit-out laps and perfectly executed stops.

O’Ward stayed out front until he made his first pit stop on Lap 29, handing the lead to Graham Rahal in the No. 15 Total Quartz Honda. Various pit cycles thrust Ed Jones, Harvey, Dixon and Palou into short stints out front before Rahal took control of the race on Lap 44.

Rahal maintained a lead of around 2.5 seconds over O’Ward until rookie Callum Ilott and Dalton Kellett both slowed on track in separate spots on Lap 51, triggering the second caution period of the race on Lap 52.

While a handful of drivers pitted, Rahal elected to stay out and led until Lap 74, when he and second-place Jones pitted to hand the lead to Harvey.

Pit cycles then unfolded over the next 12 laps before Palou, who made his final stop on Lap 79, one lap before teammate Dixon, took the lead for good on Lap 86.

Palou pulled away from Rossi on restarts on Lap 89 and Lap 92 after brief caution periods and reached the checkered flag leading 29 laps for the race. Rahal led a race-high 36 laps before finishing 10th.

Palou wins his third race of the season

Select Quotes

Alex Palou (Chip Ganassi Racing Honda) Race winner, his third career INDYCAR win and third win of 2021, regains Drivers’ Championship points lead with two races remaining: “I need to see a replay [of the multi-car accident just after the race start], but we kept our head down.  We knew the race was really long, and our strategy was amazing.  HPD gave us the power we needed, and I’m super proud of our partners, and our team.  The whole team was amazing today:  the strategy, the pit stops, everything.  With all the bad luck we had [at the start], we still won. I’m proud about that.”

Alexander Rossi (Andretti Autosport Honda) Started second, finished second: “It wasn’t a win, which is always the goal, but a podium is still a good reward for the team.  It’s been a frustrating year.  Speed has never been the issue, but we haven’t been getting the results and getting it done.  But I think we definitely have had the performance coming back from our summer [three-week] break.  Today was a good boost, and we still have two more to go.”

Race Results

Pos No Name Laps Diff Gap Pits Led ST Engine Points Team
1 10 Alex Palou 110 LAP 110 3 29 1 Honda 477 Chip Ganassi Racing
2 27 Alexander Rossi 110 1.2895 1.2895 3 0 2 Honda 299 Andretti Autosport
3 9 Scott Dixon 110 4.4406 3.1511 3 4 3 Honda 428 Chip Ganassi Racing
4 60 Jack Harvey 110 8.2208 3.7802 2 5 20 Honda 266 Meyer Shank Racing
5 2 Josef Newgarden 110 8.9566 0.7358 2 0 18 Chevy 443 Team Penske
6 7 Felix Rosenqvist 110 9.3231 0.3665 3 0 4 Chevy 177 Arrow McLaren SP
7 8 Marcus Ericsson 110 10.3425 1.0194 3 1 10 Honda 402 Chip Ganassi Racing
8 26 Colton Herta 110 12.2628 1.9203 3 0 6 Honda 348 Andretti Autosport
9 3 Scott McLaughlin 110 13.9438 1.6810 3 5 15 Chevy 268 Team Penske
10 15 Graham Rahal 110 17.5449 3.6011 2 36 5 Honda 342 Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing
11 18 Ed Jones 110 18.1590 0.6141 2 2 8 Honda 195 Dale Coyne Racing with Vasser Sullivan
12 30 Takuma Sato 110 18.7513 0.5923 2 0 26 Honda 297 Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing
13 12 Will Power 110 19.8312 1.0799 7 0 14 Chevy 332 Team Penske
14 5 Pato O’Ward 110 20.8494 1.0182 3 28 7 Chevy 452 Arrow McLaren SP
15 28 Ryan Hunter-Reay 110 25.5636 4.7142 3 0 27 Honda 230 Andretti Autosport
16 20 Conor Daly 110 27.3972 1.8336 3 0 16 Chevy 212 Ed Carpenter Racing
17 21 Rinus VeeKay 110 31.9461 4.5489 3 0 25 Chevy 291 Ed Carpenter Racing
18 14 Sebastien Bourdais 110 32.4259 0.4798 3 0 12 Chevy 218 AJ Foyt Enterprises
19 59 Max Chilton 110 33.2897 0.8638 3 0 11 Chevy 110 Carlin
20 48 Jimmie Johnson 110 33.7026 0.4129 4 0 22 Honda 82 Chip Ganassi Racing
21 22 Simon Pagenaud 109 1 LAPS 1 LAPS 3 0 23 Chevy 329 Team Penske
22 51 Romain Grosjean 95 15 LAPS 14 LAPS 5 0 21 Honda 230 Dale Coyne Racing w/RWR
23 06 Helio Castroneves 91 19 LAPS 4 LAPS 4 0 17 Honda 141 Meyer Shank Racing
24 45 Oliver Askew 89 Contact 0.2780 3 0 9 Honda 30 Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing
25 77 Callum Ilott 77 Mechanical 1 LAPS 3 0 19 Chevy 5 Juncos Hollinger Racing
26 4 Dalton Kellett 50 Mechanical 3.9274 1 0 24 Chevy 130 AJ Foyt Enterprises
27 29 James Hinchcliffe 1 Contact 34 LAPS 1 0 13 Honda 194 Andretti Steinbrenner Autosport

Race Statistics
Winner’s average speed: 102.011 mph
Time of Race: 02:07:04.1304
Margin of victory: 1.2895 seconds
Cautions: 4 for 20 laps
Lead changes: 12 among 8 drivers

Lap Leaders:
O’Ward, Pato 1-28
Rahal, Graham 29-34
Jones, Ed 35-36
Harvey, Jack 37-39
Dixon, Scott 40-42
Palou, Alex 43
Rahal, Graham 44-73
Harvey, Jack 74-75
Palou, Alex 76-78,
Dixon, Scott 79
McLaughlin, Scott 80-84
Ericsson, Marcus 85
Palou, Alex 86-110

NTT INDYCAR SERIES point standings: Palou 477, O’Ward 452, Newgarden 443, Dixon 428, Ericsson 402, Herta 348, Rahal 342, Power 332, Pagenaud 329, Rossi 299.


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