Alex Palou makes history, wins second IndyCar title in Portland

Logan Ploder
FiredUp Network Sports Writer


Monday, September 4, 2023

Photo Credit: Auto Week

This time last year, it wasn't even certain that Alex Palou would be on the 2023 IndyCar grid.

Amid a contract dispute and subsequent court case with Chip Ganassi Racing and Arrow McLaren, it was looking more and more likely that Palou would be sacked by the hurt feelings of Ganassi, even though McLaren didn't officially have a spot for him anymore.

Luckily, the three sides came to an agreement to keep Palou at CGR, while still allowing him to test McLaren's F1 cars. He then won the 2022 finale for his first and only win of the season, and has never looked back since.

Now, he's a two-time IndyCar champion.

Starting from fifth on the grid, Palou brilliantly made his way to third at the start, before performing the over-cut on leaders Graham Rahal and Scott McLaughlin in front to cruise to his fifth win of the season and clinch his second title.

Perhaps what is most impressive of everything is the fact that Palou won the championship with a race still to spare. Not since Sebastien Bourdais in 2006 had a driver wrapped up the Indy championship before the season finale, until now.

The highs of Portland were just the icing on the cake for what has been a truly dominant season in a spec series that is nearly impossible to dominate. Palou currently has an average finish of under 4.0, and incredibly, a worst finish of just eighth place.

Finishing second was the McLaren of Felix Rosenqvist. The Swede jumped up the order after an intentionally delayed caution for the stricken Augustin Canapino saved him from having to an out lap on cold tires like everyone else, much to the dismay of Scott Dixon. 

With just one race to go before he reportedly will leave to join Meyer Shank Racing in place of Simon Pagenaud for 2024, it looks like a solid parting gift for the two sides.

Third was Palou's only threat at the title, teammate Dixon. The New Zealander also jumped Rahal and Scott McLaughlin in the first pit stop phase with an over-cut of his own to get into second, before controversially falling behind the McLaren. Dixon attempted to pull off yet another championship rally with two wins in two races entering Portland, but it wasn't meant to be.

Behind him was Pato O'Ward in fourth, who continued his stellar consistent, yet still winless season with another great result. He is one of four drivers entering the finale without a win this season after scoring one last year.

Team Penske's Josef Newgarden recovered from his heavy qualifying crash to finish fifth, ahead of Ed Carpenter Racing's Rinus Veekay in sixth, and Marcus Ericsson in seventh.

David Malukas finished eighth, ahead of McLaughlin in ninth from P2, and Kyle Kirkwood in tenth.

Coming up next is the IndyCar finale at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca in Monterey, California. While the title race is sewn up, there's still lots to play for, including pride, championship positioning behind Palou, and one final goodbye for both teams and drivers.