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Race report
IndyCar Portland

IndyCar Portland: Palou wins to be crowned 2023 champion

Chip Ganassi Racing’s Alex Palou won the penultimate round of the IndyCar Series at Portland International Raceway to be crowned champion on Sunday.

Alex Palou, Chip Ganassi Racing Honda

Palou beat Arrow McLaren’s Felix Rosenqvist by 5.4s to claim his fifth win of the season and his second IndyCar championship, following up his 2021 success. It is Ganassi’s 15th title in the series.

Poleman Graham Rahal (Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing) led the 27-car field to green, heading fellow alternate-tyred starters Scott McLaughlin (Team Penske) and Colton Herta (Andretti Autosport). Palou surged up to third from fifth on the grid, with title rival Dixon slipping to fifth after tagging the rear of Herta at the apex of Turn 2 and delaying them both. Behind them, Josef Newgarden (Penske) and Kyle Kirkwood (Andretti) got together and had to take the escape road at the first chicane.

On the opening lap at Turn 7, Callum Ilott (Juncos Hollinger Racing) ran wide and was hit from behind by the luckless Romain Grosjean’s Andretti Autosport machine as he rejoined. Grosjean lost 10 laps for repairs.

The yellow flag flew on lap 3 as Will Power’s Penske entry spun off into the grass after an overambitious dive down the inside of Alexander Rossi (Arrow McLaren) at Turn 4.

Rahal led the restart on lap 7 from McLaughlin, Palou (who started on harder primary tires), Herta and Dixon (also on primaries). Behind them, the McLarens of Pato O’Ward headed Rossi and Rosenqvist – who made a storming start from 11th – the latter duo swapping seventh between them.

Herta, Rossi and Marcus Ericsson (Ganassi) were the first to pit on lap 19 but Herta was pinged for pitlane speeding, costing him a drive-through penalty. McLaughlin stopped on lap 22, with Rahal pitting a lap later, promoting Palou to the front ahead of Dixon, both running long first stints due to starting on the more durable tire.

Rahal and McLaughlin were mired in traffic after their early stops and haemorrhaged time, as Palou set a fearsome pace out front and opened up a 5s lead over Dixon. O’Ward and Rosenqvist pitted together on lap 30, with the former opting for alternates but losing track position to his team-mate during the stop.

Graham Rahal, Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing Honda

Graham Rahal, Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing Honda

Photo by: Gavin Baker / Motorsport Images

Palou pitted for the first time on lap 32, switching to the unfavoured alternates, with Dixon following suit a lap later but opting for primaries.

After the first cycle was complete, Palou led Dixon by 6s, with Rosenqvist leaping to third from O’Ward, Rahal, McLaughlin and Newgarden. Rossi slumped to the bottom of the top 10, while Herta’s penalty dropped him to 19th.

Dixon carved into Palou’s lead, as the Spaniard nursed his softer tires and got stuck behind tailender Sting Ray Robb. Palou dived for the pits on lap 49, giving him primary rubber for the rest of the race. As he rejoined, he instinctively appeared to block Helio Castroneves on the run to Turn 3 to keep his track position – but the incident wasn’t reviewed by race control.

Rosenqvist caught right up with Dixon before making his second stop on lap 58, the Swede committing to another long stint on primaries. Dixon stopped two laps later, gifting an eight second lead back to Palou and rejoining on alternates.

Palou extended his advantage to over 10s with 40 laps to go and pitted for the final time on lap 80 and rejoined ahead of the polewinner Rahal, who still had to make his final stop. Dixon stopped two laps later once again, rejoining eight seconds behind.

Agustin Canapino spun off with 27 laps to go, going straight on at Turn 10 and spun wildly back across the track and onto the grass, but IndyCar stalled the call to go full-course caution, which allowed Rosenqvist to pit before the yellow flew. That jumped him to second, ahead of Dixon, but meant he had the final stint 23 laps to the finish to run on alternates.

Palou had Rosenqvist right behind him at the restart, with Dixon and O’Ward having to deal with traffic. In the pack, the recovering Herta passed McLaughlin for eighth, while just ahead Rossi and Ericsson clashed wheels at 170mph on the approach to Turn 10, sending a furious Rossi to the pits for a new front wing.

Palou had it all under control at the front, as Rosenqvist had to manage his alternates, while Dixon had nothing to attempt to regain the runner-up spot he thought was stolen from him.

O’Ward finished fourth, ahead of Newgarden – who enjoyed a strong bounce back, despite two skirmishes with Kirkwood – and Rinus VeeKay, who had one of his best runs of the season for Ed Carpenter Racing. Ericsson was seventh but the chasing Herta spun with just three laps to go, promoting David Malukas (Dale Coyne Racing), McLaughlin and Kirkwood.

Polewinner Rahal finished 12th, ahead of Herta, and was livid about his team’s strategy calls. Ganassi’s Marcus Armstrong also lost a likely top 10 when he was sent on his way with only three wheels attached.

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