Alex Palou broke through for his first NTT IndyCar Series win Sunday, winning the Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama at Barber Motorsports Park in his Chip Ganassi Racing debut.
The 24-year-old Spaniard, who started third (tying a career-best qualifying effort), capitalized on a two-stop pit strategy, running consistent laps to fend off the pursuit of past series champions Will Power and Scott Dixon, his teammate.
It was the 15th career IndyCar start for Palou, who is in his second full season. Last year, Palou raced for Dale Coyne Racing.
“We knew we had the best team, the best car,” Palou told NBC Sports’ Marty Snider. “Yeah, it was possible. Ricky, my chief engineer, told me we can not win them all, but let’s win the first one. We did it, it’s amazing. Chip, all the team did an amazing job. We had the best cars. It’s amazing to be part of the winning drivers and starting strong.
“It was one of those days when everything went well. We got good fuel mileage, good tire management and good pace.”
It was the 114th IndyCar victory for team owner Chip Ganassi and his first victory at Barber (where Dixon has finished second or third nine times). Palou also became the 14th driver to win for Ganassi.
Power, the series’ best driver on road courses, closed within 2 seconds in the closing laps but couldn’t catch Palou.
“Just blew my mind how fast Alex was in that first stint,” Power told NBC Sports’ Kelli Stavast. “I had absolutely nothing for him. He just pulled away. So I figured he was doing a three-stop race.”
Pole-sitter Pato O’Ward finished fourth, followed by Sebastien Bourdais.
Rinus VeeKay, Marcus Ericsson, Graham Rahal, Alexander Rossi and Romain Grosjean (in his IndyCar debut) rounded out the top 10.
Seven-time NASCAR Cup Series champion Jimmie Johnson finished 19th, three laps down, in his IndyCar debut with Ganassi.
O’Ward rebounded from a brief mid-race collision with Sebastien Bourdais, coming up short when his three-stop strategy didn’t synch well with a race that featured only two yellow flags — the first on the opening lap.
The race got off to an inauspicious start shortly after the green flag when three-time Barber winner Josef Newgarden spun in Turn 5 on Lap 1, triggering a multicar crash that also collected Colton Herta, Ryan Hunter-Reay, Felix Rosenqvist and Max Chilton.
“I wanted to just get rolling,” Newgarden said. “I felt like we had so much potential. We had a really good car underneath us, and the team worked really hard and was ready to show that. I made a mistake. I got loose in traffic coming up the hill.
“So just feel bad for causing a big wreck and anyone who was involved because of me. It’s tough to have a mistake like that.”
Johnson brought out the second yellow with a single-car spin on Lap 9, but he kept his No. 48 Dallara-Honda rolling without damage.
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Alex Palou breaks through for first IndyCar victory in season opener at Barber originally appeared on NBCSports.com