sunny.png
Tuesday May 18th, 2021 7:23AM

Alex Palou scores 1st career IndyCar win in Ganassi debut

By The Associated Press
Related Articles
  Contact Editor

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (AP) — Fernando Alonso is winless so far this season in Formula One. Same with Carlos Sainz.

Over in IndyCar, though, Alex Palou scored a victory for Spain.

Palou picked up his first career win — in his first race with Chip Ganassi Racing — by holding off a pair of series champions in Sunday's season-opening race at Barber Motorsports Park. The affable 24-year-old raised his fists in the air when he realized he'd reached victory lane before his fellow countrymen, who both raced 5,000 miles away in Italy earlier Sunday.

Palou is only the second Spaniard to win in the IndyCar Series, joining Oriol Servia, who won in 2005 at Montreal.

“It’s just amazing but I think it was part of the job,” he said. “When you are part of a big team and a successful team like Chip Ganassi, they give you all the tools. You have everything you need to win, and that’s why you see so many successful drivers.”

Palou then vowed to find the best fried chicken in Alabama to celebrate his achievement.

“I think that 80% of the drivers will tell you that after a race we need something that is not good for our body and that’s what I’m going to take tonight if I can, fried chicken. And fries. Lots of fries,” he said.

Palou used a two-stop strategy on the picturesque permanent road course to take control of the race but still had to hold off hard-charging Will Power and Ganassi teammate Scott Dixon over the closing laps. He beat Power by .4016 seconds to claim his first win in his first race driving for the storied Ganassi organization.

Dixon, the six-time and reigning IndyCar champion, finished third and was followed by pole-sitter Pato O'Ward, who was on a three-stop strategy.

Palou was the quieter offseason signing of the Ganassi organization, which also added seven-time NASCAR champion Jimmie Johnson to the four-car lineup. But Ganassi also took a gamble on Palou, who had spent one season driving for Dale Coyne Racing with one podium finish and one lap led all year.

He'd raced in Japan and Europe previously but introduced himself to Ganassi last August at the Indianapolis 500 in hopes of landing a job with an elite team.

“One of the dreams was to come here to the U.S. and once you are in the U.S. you want to be more and you want to be competitive, and to be competitive I wanted to be part of Chip,” Palou said. “I actually introduced myself to Chip at the Indy 500 because I wanted to be part of that team. I saw the spirit of the team. To be part of Chip Ganassi is 50 percent of another dream, which is to become a champion.”

Ganassi had been impressed through preseason testing and warned Palou would be a force this season.

“We did some testing over the winter and he was quick all day long at the tests, at one test he was quicker than Dixon,” Ganassi said. “So we knew the potential was there but you don't know where you are relative to other teams.”

Ganassi finished with three drivers in the top eight as Marcus Ericsson finished eighth, and Dixon has enjoyed this young new teammate who won't stop following him around both at the shop and at the race track.

“He’s actually one of those really nice guys. There has to be some underlying thing going on there somewhere. None of us have found it yet,” Dixon said. “It’s great to see somebody that’s easy to work with.

"Some drivers that we all get to work with can be somewhat difficult, but he is extremely willing and wanting to learn, asks a lot of questions, sends a lot of text messages to try and just do a better job. He’s been a real pleasure.”

Still most of the attention leading into the race was on the stacked rookie class of Johnson, former Formula One driver Romain Grosjean and three-time and defending Australian Supercars champion Scott McLaughlin.

Johnson, who at 45 is older than Palou's father, is learning every session and taking small gains. He celebrated not qualifying last on Saturday and was satisfied with his 19th-place finish Sunday.

Johnson had a developing blister on his hand after the race, avoided a first-lap crash and recovered from an early spin.

“Just a ton of learning experiences throughout the day,” Johnson said. “I just can't say too many times how different this is and how specialized this craft is.”

Grosjean, in his first race since a fiery November crash in Bahrain, finished 10th for Dale Coyne Racing. McLaughlin was 14th for Team Penske.

Three-time Barber winner Josef Newgarden triggered an uncharacteristic opening-lap crash that collected Colton Herta and Ryan Hunter-Reay, a pair of Andretti Autosport championship contenders, as well as Felix Rosenqvist.

Rosenqvist, who briefly went airborne, also crashed in practice and had his qualifying lap disqualified, but was able to get his car back on track. Herta, Newgarden and Hunter-Reay were done without completing a single lap.

“I got loose coming over the hill and then touched the grass. I think once I touched the grass I'm basically sideways,” said Newgarden, the two-time series champion who was runner-up last season. “I feel really bad for anyone who got involved in that. Obviously my mess created a bigger mess, so any of the cars that got involved I'm really sorry because it was us that tipped it off.”

Herta, who crashed during Saturday practice, wasn't concerned about the hit he'd take in the championship fight.

“This sucks, man, and I'm ready to get out of here,” Herta said. “It's such a competitive year and guys are going to have bad races and guys aren't going to do well everywhere. It obviously sucks for us because now we're on the back foot but we have plenty of races left to get back in it.”

UP NEXT

IndyCar races next Sunday on the streets of St. Petersburg, Florida, which is typically the season opener. It was the season finale last year and won by Newgarden.

___

More AP auto racing: https://apnews.com/hub/auto-racing and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports

  • Associated Categories: Associated Press (AP), AP Sports, AP Online Auto Racing, NASCAR, Formula One Racing, Indy Car Racing
© Copyright 2021 AccessWDUN.com
All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed without permission.
Cink-cess! 47-year-old Cink wins 3rd RBC Heritage title
Stewart Cink had a steady, stress-free 70 to cap off a dominant week and win his third RBC Heritage title
6:21PM ( 16 minutes ago )
Rays finish Bronx sweep, last-place Yanks lose 5th straight
The last-place New York Yankees lost their fifth straight game as Yoshi Tsutsugo hit a tiebreaking double off Gerrit Cole in the seventh inning that lifted the Tampa Bay Rays to a 4-2 win and a three-game sweep
6:19PM ( 18 minutes ago )
Bieber sets K record, fans 13 as Indians beat Reds 6-3
Shane Bieber kept up his record strikeout run, fanning 13 and pitching the Cleveland Indians past the Cincinnati Reds 6-3
6:15PM ( 23 minutes ago )
Associated Press (AP)
LEADING OFF: Patriots' Day at Fenway, Twins still on pause
The Chicago White Sox and Boston Red Sox begin at 11:05 a.m. at Fenway Park in the annual Patriots’ Day game
4:48PM ( 1 hour ago )
Kevin Durant leaves Nets' game in Miami with thigh injury
Brooklyn’s Kevin Durant was forced to leave the Nets’ game in Miami early in the first quarter with a left thigh injury
4:41PM ( 1 hour ago )
Punter Pressley Harvin III is a big presence in NFL draft
Georgia Tech's plump punter Pressley Harvin III is a big presence in the upcoming NFL draft
4:33PM ( 2 hours ago )
AP Sports
O'Ward sets track record at Barber, Johnson ready for debut
Pato O'Ward set a track record at Barber Motorsports Park to win the pole for the IndyCar season-opening race
7:58PM ( 22 hours ago )
Scott Dixon seeks motorsports milestone 7th championship
Scott Dixon opens the IndyCar season in search of the motorsports milestone mark of seven championships
7:29PM ( 1 day ago )
NASCAR, motorsports approach to virus vaccine varies greatly
Across auto racing in the U.S., approaches vary among the drivers when it comes to vaccination against the coronavirus
5:05PM ( 2 days ago )
AP Online Auto Racing
Elliott honors Kulwicki with 1992 championship paint scheme
Chase Elliott will honor the late Alan Kulwicki by driving the Hooters paint scheme Kulwicki used in the 1992 season finale
1:15PM ( 2 weeks ago )
Logano takes the checkered flag in a haze of Bristol dirt
Joey Logano won NASCAR's first Cup Series race on dirt since 1970 with an overtime victory at Bristol Motor Speedway
8:20PM ( 2 weeks ago )
Truex routs Bristol field on dirt to win his 1st Truck race
Martin Truex Jr. has won his first career Truck Series race with a dominating run on the dirt at Bristol Motor Speedway
2:28PM ( 2 weeks ago )
NASCAR
Hamilton holds off Verstappen to win tense F1 season-opener
Lewis Hamilton just managed to hold off Max Verstappen to win the season-opening Bahrain Grand Prix and clinch the 96th F1 win of his career
2:23PM ( 3 weeks ago )
Hamilton holds off Verstappen to win F1 season-opener
World champion Lewis Hamilton just held off Max Verstappen to win the season-opening Bahrain Grand Prix and clinch the 96th F1 win of his career
12:52PM ( 3 weeks ago )
'Arrested Development' actor Jessica Walter dies at 80
Jessica Walter, who played a scheming matriach in TV’s “Arrested Development,” has died
5:55PM ( 3 weeks ago )
Formula One Racing
Good dogs! 20 years of covering Westminster Kennel Club show
To every sport, there’s a season, a spot on the calendar that fans mark for the big event
11:49AM ( 2 months ago )
Ready to retire? Kurt Busch leaves NASCAR fans guessing
Kurt Busch hinted he may soon retire from NASCAR in a video released two days before the Daytona 500
3:26PM ( 2 months ago )
The Latest: Oaklawn Park to allow limited attendance
Oaklawn Park in Arkansas plans to allow limited fans during its winter-spring horse racing meet that begins in 16 days and runs through April, but grandstand general admission won’t be allowed initially
3:10PM ( 3 months ago )
Indy Car Racing
Cink-cess! 47-year-old Cink wins 3rd RBC Heritage title
Stewart Cink had a steady, stress-free 70 to cap off a dominant week and win his third RBC Heritage title
6:21PM ( 16 minutes ago )
Rays finish Bronx sweep, last-place Yanks lose 5th straight
The last-place New York Yankees lost their fifth straight game as Yoshi Tsutsugo hit a tiebreaking double off Gerrit Cole in the seventh inning that lifted the Tampa Bay Rays to a 4-2 win and a three-game sweep
6:19PM ( 18 minutes ago )
Bieber sets K record, fans 13 as Indians beat Reds 6-3
Shane Bieber kept up his record strikeout run, fanning 13 and pitching the Cleveland Indians past the Cincinnati Reds 6-3
6:15PM ( 23 minutes ago )
Police: Suspect on the run in fatal shooting of 3 in Texas
A 41-year-old man is wanted in the fatal shooting of three people in Austin, Texas, and police officials searching the surrounding area are warning residents that the suspect might take a hostage
6:15PM ( 23 minutes ago )
Suspect apprehended in fatal shooting at Wisconsin tavern
Authorities say they have apprehended a person in connection with a shooting at a busy tavern in southeastern Wisconsin early Sunday that left three men dead and three men injured
6:13PM ( 25 minutes ago )