Scott Dixon finished third in the IndyCar season opener at Barber Motorsport Park this morning, his ninth podium at the Alabama circuit.
Alex Palou claimed his first career win, doing so in his first race with Chip Ganassi Racing.
Using a two-stop strategy to his advantage, Palou jumped into the effective lead midway through the race, before fending off Will Power in the last ten laps to clinch victory.
“It was one of those days when everything went well,” Palou said. “We got good fuel mileage, good tire management and good pace.”
Lap one was brought under yellow when Josef Newgarden spun on the exit of turn four.
His stricken car was then collected by several innocent bystanders, including Felix Rosenqvist and Ryan Hunter-Reay.
“I feel really bad for everyone involved,” Newgarden said.
“My mess created a bigger mess behind, so I’m really sorry as it was obviously us who tipped it off. It was a shame, I felt like we had a really good car. We just have to bounce back at the next one.”
Polesitter Pato O’Ward controlled the restart and was embroiled in a tussle with Alexander Rossi until both pitted on lap 18.
Unfortunately for O’Ward, his three-stop strategy failed to pay dividends with the race running green for the last 70 laps.
The McLaren driver would also run into brief trouble with Sebastien Bourdais. The two drivers made contact, forcing O’Ward to run wide.
Palou jumped into the lead after making his first stop on lap 31, with Power and Dixon, who were on a similar strategy, slotting in behind.
Making the most of his clean air, Palou established a comfortable seven second margin over Power before making his last stop on lap 42.
Quick final stops by Power, Dixon and Marcus Ericsson had the trio shave some time off Palou’s lead.
Power and Dixon had also conserved a healthy dose of push-to-pass, meaning they closed up on Palou over the final few laps.
O’Ward made good use of his fresh tyres after his third and final stop and he got past Ericsson to snatch fourth. However, the gap to Dixon would be insurmountable and he settled for the first non-podium placing.
Lapped traffic threatened to hinder Palou as the laps trickled down, but ultimately Power could only come within half-a-second of the race winner.
Dixon was a further 2.5s behind Power, with O’Ward getting to within a second of the Kiwi before the chequered flag.
After his headline act in qualifying, rookie Romain Grosjean came home in tenth.
Scott McLaughlin ran a clean race and finished on the lead lap in 14th.
The next round of the IndyCar Series will be on the streets of St Petersburg next weekend.
|17||James Hinchcliffe||1 Lap|
|18||Dalton Kellett||1 Lap|
|19||Jimmie Johnson||3 Laps|
|20||Max Chilton||4 Laps|
|21||Felix Rosenqvist||28 Laps|
|22||Colton Herta||65 Laps|
|23||Josef Newgarden||90 Laps|
|24||Ryan Hunter-Reay||90 Laps|