Following a rough couple of weeks with a crash at Gateway and an engine failure at the Indianapolis Grand Prix, Chip Ganassi’s Alex Palou fought back into the championship points lead with a victory at Portland International Speedway Sunday afternoon. Palou qualified on the pole and took the lead on Lap 86 to score his third victory of the 2021 season.
“It was massive,” Palou said about the victory. “I don’t think that much about the three wins or two wins. I think that’s important but not super. What I think is important is that even having a really bad start of the race, we were able to fight. At some point we were behind Rossi and Dixon, so we overtook them even on the same strategy. I’m really proud of the work we did today together with our guys at the No. 10 PNC Bank Honda car. And yeah, it’s good to have three wins this year.”
Meanwhile, Alexander Rossi has had a tough season with two DNFs and no podium finishes. However, Rossi had a decent day in the No. 27 NAPA Autoparts Honda earning his first podium of the year after finishing second in the Grand Prix of Portland.
“Yeah, I mean, I’m glad it all came back to us because we all would have looked pretty silly, I guess,” Rossi said about his day. I thought it was pretty low grip in Turn 1 when Felix, I guess — when Scott and Alex and them kind of slid through, I didn’t really have anywhere to go, and I thought if we got back to the styrofoam chicane, that was acceptable. But it was self-penalizing because we all went from like first, second, third to sixth, seventh, eighth, and then they’re like, oh, you’re going to 24th. It was like, okay, cool.”
“But fortunately it all came around, and as Scott said, it put us on the two-stop, which is ultimately the strategy to be on.”
The pace of the car was good all weekend. I think we gave it everything we could there on that last stint, and the red tires had a window of time where they were a little bit better, and then it was just tough with dirty air, and Alex didn’t make a mistake. It’s always going to be hard to just go and drive around the pole sitter, but ultimately it was a good day for the team, good in pit lane, great calls, so yeah, started second, finished second.”
For the first time in two-years, the NTT IndyCar Series returned to Portland International Raceway with just three races remaining in the 2021 season. Pato O’Ward entered the race with a nine point lead over Palou.
As the field took the green flag for the 110-lap event, there was a massive melee in Turn 1 involving multiple cars. The No. 7 of Felix Rosenqvist turned into the No. 9 of Scott Dixon, which then caused a traffic jam. Others involved were the 51 of Romain Grosjean, the 06 of Helio Castroneves, the 12 of Will Power and the 45 of Oliver Askew.
After multiple laps ran under yellow with IndyCar shuffling the lineup order, the restart came at Lap 11 with Graham Rahal and Pato O’Ward leading the way.
Early in the first stint, O’Ward led the first 29 laps heading into the first stop. However, with varying strategies, Rahal stayed out one lap later and did not pit until Lap 35. When Rahal pitted, the Indiana native came out in front of O’Ward on the fronstretch. Rahal cycled back into the lead on Lap 45 and led O’Ward by 2.3 seconds. He then stretched the lead by 3.5 seconds five laps later.
During the ongoing pit stops, the second caution flew on Lap 51 when the No. 77 of Callum llott came to a stop in Turn 1. The yellow created a restart on Lap 57 (just two laps past halfway) with Rahal and Ed Jones on the front row, creating one more pit stop for the field.
After the restart, Rossi moved into the fifth position after making a three wide move into Turn 1. With Rossi moving into the top five, Rahal continued to lead second place Jones by 1.6 seconds with 40 laps to go. On Lap 74, Rahal and Jones made their final stop with hopes of battling it out for the win. However, others stayed out longer including eventual race winner Alex Palou who didn’t make his stop until Lap 78 for four tires and fuel.
Palou came out ahead and cycled into the lead, but another caution came with 25 to go for Simon Pagenaud who spun in Turn 8 after contact with Will Power. One more yellow was caused on the Lap 90 restart, as the No. 45 of Askew stalled when the No. 14 of Bourdais made contact.
After the final yellow of the day, an 18-lap dash to the finish was set up with leaders Palou and Rossi. With cloud cover in the area, Rossi was able to use that to his advantage and decrease the lead to 0.830 seconds with 13 to go. However, race leader Palou kept Rossi at bay with a manageable gap inside the last 10 laps.
As the checkered flag flew, Alex Palou took home the third checkered flag of his career in just his 27th NTT IndyCar Series start. Rossi finished 1.2 seconds back in second, Scott Dixon third, Jack Harvey fourth, and Josef Newagarden rounded out the top five finishers.
Even though Dixon is 49 points behind in the standings, Palou’s teammate believes he still has a shot at the championship and doesn’t mind helping Palou win the title when it comes down to it.
“I don’t know, try and win,” Dixon said. “It’s definitely been a trying season for us, but ultimately if it comes down to we need to help Alex, that’s fine, too. I think for us it’s about keeping the championship at home and at the team.”
“So yeah, it’s just the way it rolls sometimes. But yeah, we’ll — obviously we’ve seen it. We saw it at St. Louis how quickly it can flip. We’ve seen how quickly it can flip this weekend. Unless you’re out, you’re not out. We’ve won championships on a tiebreaker. It’s all possible.”
Palou led three times for 29 laps en route to victory and takes over the championship points by 25 over Pato O’Ward.
Official Results following the Grand Prix of Portland.
- Alex Palou, led 29 laps
- Alexander Rossi
- Scott Dixon, led four laps
- Jack Harvey, led five laps
- Josef Newgarden
- Fleix Rosenqvist
- Marcus Ericsson, led one lap
- Colton Herrta
- Scott McLaughlin, led five laps
- Graham Rahal, led 36 laps
- Ed Jones, led two laps
- Takuma Sato
- Will Power
- Pato O’Ward, led 28 laps
- Ryan Hunter-Reay
- Conor Daly
- Rinus VeeKay
- Sebastien Bourdias
- Max Chilton
- Jimmie Johnson
- Simon Pagenaud, 1 lap down
- Romain Grosjean, 15 laps down
- Helio Castroneves, 19 laps down
- Oliver Askew, OUT, Contact
- Callum llott, OUT, Mechanical
- Dalton Kellett, OUT, Mechanical
- James Hinchcliffe, OUT, Contact
Up Next: The NTT IndyCar Series will continue to stay out west as they head to Laguna Seca for the Firestone Grand Prix of Monterey at 3 p.m. ET live on NBC.