Alex Palou is only in his second season but the Chip Ganassi Racing driver certainly knows how to respond in the face of adversity. Palou failed to finish the last two races, through no fault of his own and saw his championship points lead evaporate. He responded emphatically this weekend by leading the field in practice, qualifying on pole, and winning the Grand Prix of Portland when it all seemed lost. Despite sliding back to 16th place after the Turn 1 chaos on the opening lap, Palou rebounded to earn his third victory of the season.
Alexander Rossi came into the weekend just hoping to have a solid finish, and the Andretti Autosport driver nearly ended his long winless streak. Despite not leading a lap during the race (Rossi has only led two total laps this season) Rossi managed the afternoon well and earned his first podium result of the season. Scott Dixon joined them on the podium, which is the 123rd of his career but still lost six points to his teammate in the championship.
Grand Prix of Portland Box Score
“We kept our heads down, and we knew the race was really long,” Palou said. “I cannot believe it. We made it on fuel. The guys made it. They just gave me the numbers, and we just follow it. The strategy was amazing.” Palou now carries a 25-point lead in the championship with just two races remaining.
It was a messy start to the race, as Felix Rosenqvist got into the back of Dixon heading into the first turn, which caused him and his teammate Palou to take evasive action. The rest of the field was bunched up and cars were spinning in all directions. Several drivers like Helio Castroneves and James Hinchcliffe had their day ruined, and getting the running order set was a difficult task for race control.
Though he came up one spot short of his first podium this season, it was a mega afternoon for Jack Harvey and the Meyer Shank Racing team. Harvey started in 20th but fought back to earn a well-deserved 4th place result. Josef Newgarden rounded out the top five on Sunday. The Team Penske driver also charged towards the front after starting in 18th position. He now sits third in the championship standings, 34 points behind Palou.
Rosenqvist had a solid afternoon aside from the start of the race, and Marcus Ericsson grabbed his 11th top-ten finish of the season. Less than two weeks after signing an extension with Ganassi, Ericsson has now recorded eight straight top-tens. Colton Herta was not able to improve from his sixth-place starting position and came home in 8th place. Scott McLaughlin and Graham Rahal rounded out the top ten.
Rahal was in a good position to end his winless drought, which has spanned more than four years. He led a race-high 36 laps but an ill-timed caution threw a wrench into their strategy. Ed Jones had an outstanding qualifying performance on Saturday but was not able to keep the momentum going today but earned a solid 11th place finish after a late battle with Takuma Sato. Will Power had a quiet weekend and finished 13th, just ahead of Pato O’Ward, who led 28 laps but faded late in the race with power issues.
Ryan Hunter-Reay’s rough final season with Andretti resulted in another ho-hum day and the two Ed Carpenter Racing drivers finished just behind him. After a hot start to the season, Rinus VeeKay finished 17th today and has now finished 16th or worse in the last six races. Simon Pagenaud had another run-in with a teammate (Power) and finished in 21st position, just ahead of Romain Grosjean, who had a miserable weekend.
The next race on the schedule is the Firestone Grand Prix of Monterey at Laguna Seca on September 19. NBC will provide coverage for the event, which begins at 3 PM ET on Sunday.
Photos courtesy of IndyCar