Scott Dixon ended his 2021 IndyCar campaign with a third-place finish in the Grand Prix of Long Beach.
Dixon’s teammate Alex Palou also clinched his maiden IndyCar championship after heartbreak for his closest title rival.
Pato O’Ward came into the Grand Prix 35 points behind Palou but was ahead of the Spaniard on track for the race start.
A reckless lunge by Ed Jones at the final hairpin spun O’Ward to dead last by the end of lap one.
O’Ward then retired for good when his gearbox played up on lap 18.
“It’s not the first time [Jones] has done something stupid this season,” O’Ward said.
The McLaren driver won his first IndyCar race at Texas Motor Speedway in May. He would win one further time at Detroit.
“I think we had a great season,” he said. “I’m proud of the team and of myself. It wasn’t the perfect of seasons, but that is just how it is going to be.”
Once O’Ward retired, Palou’s only title threat was Josef Newgarden, who finished second.
Newgarden led for a fair chunk of the race but could not keep a hard-charging Colton Herta at bay.
Herta, who crashed in qualifying yesterday, won his second race in succession and his third this season.
“It feels amazing,” Herta said. “[This win] has been on the bucket list for so long.”
Newgarden was left to reflect on a race where untimely yellow flags undid his chase for victory.
“If there were no yellows today then I think we would have been ok to cruise up front.”
Palou is the first Spanish IndyCar champion. It is only his second season after debuting with Dale Coyne Racing in 2020.
“Oh my god, what a year. What a season,” he said.
“This team is amazing, and I am super proud to be with Chip Ganassi Racing.
“Now, I am living my dream.”
Besides the odd hiccup, Palou’s season has been rock solid.
He won the opening race in Alabama and claimed two podiums in the next five races, including the Indy 500.
Team owner Chip Ganassi won his 14th IndyCar title. He expects Palou to continue making waves in the American series for years to come.
“You’re seeing a young man that is going to set a lot of records in this business, and he is just starting.”
Scott McLaughlin collected the Rookie of the Year title after Romain Grosjean retired following a clash with the wall.
“I think the car has been awesome, and I finally got it to my liking the last six or seven races,” he said. “I’m really proud of everyone. I’m really excited for next year.
“This year was a foundation year about building, and I feel like I’ve done that. Hopefully I can be a little further up next year.
“Every area I need to get better. I need to study what Josef [Newgarden] does different, what Will [Power] does different, what Simon [Pagenaud] … figure out my flaws and where I’m strong, and then work out a ranking on what I work on.”
McLaughlin finished 14th in the championship.
|21||Conor Daly||1 Lap|
|22||Oliver Askew||2 Laps|
|23||Ryan Hunter-Reay||2 Laps|