Palou leads 69 laps to win at Portland, clinches his second IndyCar title in style

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Photo credit: Penske Entertainment/Chris Owens

Alex Palou put the hammer down and closed out his second IndyCar championship with a race to spare, leading 69 laps and winning the Grand Prix of Portland to become the first driver to win an Indycar title before the final race since 2007. Felix Rosenqvist for Arrow McLaren finished second, with current championship runner-up and Palou’s Chip Ganassi Racing teammate Scott Dixon in third. McLaren’s Pato O’Ward came in fourth while Josef Newgarden finished fifth for Team Penske, a brilliant recovery from going off-track to avoid a disaster at the first corner.

Graham Rahal took pole and started the race up front, while Palou jumped both Dixon and Colton Herta at the Festival Curves to move into third behind Scott McLaughlin. Further down the lap and further back the field, a chain reaction of Alexander Rossi in the dirt and Callum Ilott taking an evasive move ended with Romain Grosjean hitting Ilott; Ilott would continue, but Grosjean sustained suspension damage and would retire. The track stayed green another lap, but finally went yellow on lap three after Will Power spun and got stuck.

The race restarted on lap 7, and things stayed stable up until the first pit stops. Herta came in on lap 20, but broke the pit speed limit and had to come in for a drive-through penalty. Rahal and McLaughlin had started on alternate tires, and came in on laps 23 and 22 respectively, cycling Palou into the lead. When the primary tire-starters began coming in on lap 30, Rosenqvist jumped Pato O’Ward on the pit stops, and both came out ahead of Rahal. Palou would come in from the lead on lap 32, followed by Dixon on lap 33 and Malukas on lap 35, cycling Palou back to the lead.

Palou’s second stint was on the alternate tires, which wore out quickly enough for Dixon to whittle his lead down to about a second when he came in for his second stop on lap 49. He came out alongside Helio Castroneves, and battled on track for half a lap before finally pulling away. Meanwhile, Dixon, on primary tires, was able to continue unabated in the lead until his second stop on lap 61, ceding the lead back to Palou.

With about 30 laps to go the drivers made their final pit stops; the last car to come in was Rosenqvist with 26 laps to go, who was nearly caught out as Agustin Canapino spun at turn 12. The yellow was held until Rosenqvist completed his pitstop; with 22 laps to go he would start on fresh alternate tires right behind Palou, in the lead, on slightly older primary tires, but still was unable to keep up once the green flag flew. With three laps left there was one final incident as Herta–who had recovered from his penalty to move up to eighth–spun trying to keep up with Marcus Ericsson, but there would be no late yellow as he was able to continue, finishing 13th.

Palou would take the win by 5.4353 seconds, a comfortable margin for what has been, while one of the most off-track tumultuous seasons in recent memory, also one of the most dominant Indycar seasons in recent memory. With a win next weekend at the season finale at Weathertech Raceway Laguna Seca, he would be the first driver since Sebastien Bourdais in 2007 to win more than five races in a single season.