IndyCar: Palou Wins $1Million Challenge at the Thermal Club

Chip Ganassi’s Alex Palou made today’s non-point $1Million Challenge look easy.  The 2023 NTT INDYCAR SERIES champion drove his No 10 Ridgeline car to an eleven-length gap in Heat 1 when he set the grid for the all-star race at Thermal Club.

Palou earned $500,000 for the victory in the non-points exhibition event feature race at The Thermal Club, a private motorsports club near Palm Springs, California.

Related ArticleIndyCar: Rosenqvist, Palou Take Poles for the $1 Million Challenge

$1Million Challenge Heat 1

The first heat started with Juncos Hollinger’s Romain Grosjean spinning and taking out Ed Carpenter’s Rinus VeeKay in the first corner of the first lap. Neither driver could continue.

Scott Dixon and Colton Herta touched while avoiding Grosjean’s car. Scott Dixon, driving his PNC Bank No 7, was given a drive-through penalty due to the avoidable contact.  Herta advanced to the final twelve but Dixon finished 12th in Heat 1 and did not advance.

Felix Rosenqvist never gave up the lead position in Heat 1.  Team Penske’s Scott McLaughlin tried to make a pass up to the final lap but did not get it done.

Rosenqvist, McLaughlin, Josef Newgarden, Christian Lundgaard, Agustin Canapino and Colton Herta advanced to the all-star race.

AR1 spoke to Scott Dixon about the drive-through penalty,  which meant he finished last in the timed heat.

“I know I made contact  with Herta but I felt like I didn’t have much of an option of where to go.”

AR1 asked the six-time champion if he enjoyed the weekend.

” I think the series will make some improvements for the main race and the feature race next year.  If they do it again.  I would like it to happen before the season starts.”

$1Million Challenge HEAT RACE 1
1. (1) Felix Rosenqvist, Honda, 8, Running
2. (2) Scott McLaughlin, Chevrolet, 8, Running
3. (5) Josef Newgarden, Chevrolet, 8, Running
4. (4) Christian Lundgaard, Honda, 8, Running
5. (8) Agustin Canapino, Chevrolet, 8, Running
6. (11) Colton Herta, Honda, 8, Running
7. (12) Nolan Siegel, Honda, 8, Running
8. (10) Santino Ferrucci, Chevrolet, 8, Running
9. (6) Will Power, Chevrolet, 8, Running
10. (13) Kyle Kirkwood, Honda, 8, Running
11. (14) Sting Ray Robb, Chevrolet, 8, Running
12. (9) Scott Dixon, Honda, 8, Running

Race Statistics
Winner’s average speed: 108.920 mph
Time of Race: 00:13:30.9622
Margin of victory: 0.4971 seconds
Cautions: 0
Lead changes: 0
Lap Leaders: Rosenqvist, Felix 1 – 8

$1Million Challenge Heat 2

Marcus Armstrong                Photo courtesy of Penske Entertainment – Chris Jones

Alex Palou lead from lap 1 to lap 10 keeping his teammate Marcus Armstrong behind him.

Alexander Rossi was the big mover, making it to sixth place in order to advance to the final race followed by his Arrow McLaren teammate, Pato O’Ward.

Palou, Marcus Armstrong, Graham Rahal, Linus Lundqvist, Pietro Fittipaldi and Alexander Rossi advanced to the final race.

$1Million Challenge HEAT RACE 2
1. (1) Alex Palou, Honda, 10, Running
2. (2) Marcus Armstrong, Honda, 10, Running
3. (3) Graham Rahal, Honda, 10, Running
4. (4) Linus Lundqvist, Honda, 10, Running
5. (6) Pietro Fittipaldi, Honda, 10, Running
6. (7) Alexander Rossi, Chevrolet, 10, Running
7. (9) Pato O’Ward, Chevrolet, 10, Running
8. (5) Tom Blomqvist, Honda, 10, Running
9. (8) Callum Ilott, Chevrolet, 10, Running
10. (11) Christian Rasmussen, Chevrolet, 10, Running
11. (10) Kyffin Simpson, Honda, 10, Running
12. (13) Marcus Ericsson, Honda, 10, Running
13. (12) Colin Braun, Honda, 10, Running

Race Statistics
Winner’s average speed: 109.253 mph
Time of Race: 16:50.6089
Margin of victory: 5.3375 seconds
Cautions: 0
Lead changes: 0
Lap Leaders: Palou, Alex 1 – 10

All-star Race

McLaughlin takes Second Place       Photo courtesy by Penske Entertainment – James Black

The first half of the final was not marred by any incidents.  Palou led all ten laps.

“The car was amazing,” Palou said. “I was a bit surprised how the competitors did the first 10 laps, saving tires. I was like: ‘All right, that’s our game. I like it.’ Super proud of the 10 car and everyone at Chip Ganassi Racing.

“I need to buy a lot of diapers,” Palou said. “I’ll probably do that and probably do some small party with the boys (Ganassi crew).”

Scott McLaughlin, Felix Rosenqvist and Marcus Armstrong kept the second, third and fourth positions respectively.

Colton Herta stayed back to save his tires so in the next half he could push harder than the other drivers.

Herta used his fresher tires to pick off drivers one by one as the laps counted down, while also carefully managing the 40 seconds of push to pass each driver was allotted. Herta dove under Linus Lundqvist’s No. 8 American Legion Chip Ganassi Racing Honda for fifth on Lap 12 and then passed Armstrong for fourth with three laps to go after a stirring duel.

“I think our strategy worked,” Herta said. “We were talking about it on pure pace, maybe we can move up six spots at most. If we get a little lucky and cars have some problems, but if we save the tires, we might get a little more. Obviously, the tire advantage was pretty big, so we were able to pick off everybody on the way up there.”

During the ‘halftime” break, Graham Rahal was retired due to a braking issue.

Then Race Control announced the Rahal Letterman Lanigan No 30 of Pietro Fittipaldi was disqualified for not start the race with full fuel.

Christian Lundgaard was moved to the rear of the field due to emergency services to his car.

The second half of the race started with no incidents happening.   Palou drove his No 10 entry from start to finish to win the $500,000 payout for first place.

Scott McLaughlin crossed the finish line second.

Felix Rosenqvist finished third.

Colton Herta was the biggest mover and finished fourth.

Marcus Armstrong and Linus Lundqvist, Palou’s teammates, finish fifth and sixth respectively.

Arrow McLaren’s Alexander Rossi ran out of push-to-pass and finished seventh.

Josef Newgarden finished eighth.

Christian Lundgaard and Agustin Canapino rounded out the ten cars running.

All-Star Race $1 Million Challenge

1 Alex Palou 10 1 20 20 Running 93.166
2 Scott McLaughlin 3 4 20 Running 92.939
3 Felix Rosenqvist 60 2 20 Running 92.784
4 Colton Herta 26 12 20 Running 92.653
5 Marcus Armstrong 11 3 20 Running 92.576
6 Linus Lundqvist 8 7 20 Running 92.537
7 Alexander Rossi 7 10 20 Running 92.520
8 Josef Newgarden 2 6 20 Running 92.476
9 Christian Lundgaard 45 11 20 Running 92.397
10 Agustin Canapino 78 9 20 Running 92.370
11 Graham Rahal 15 5 9 Mechanical 87.169
12 Pietro Fittipaldi 30 8 0 Disqualified 0.000

Race Statistics
Winner’s average speed: 93.166 mph
Time of Race: 39:30.2292
Margin of victory: 5.7929 seconds
Cautions: 0
Lead changes: 0
Lap Leaders: Palou, Alex 1 – 20

Lucille Dust reporting live from the Thermal Club


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