Palou "Dixon-esque" and "most complete" IndyCar youngster - Newgarden

Josef Newgarden and Scott Dixon have praised 2021 IndyCar champion Alex Palou for being the most "complete" of the young drivers in the series.

Palou "Dixon-esque" and "most complete" IndyCar youngster - Newgarden

Newgarden and Dixon started from the front row at the Long Beach finale but were beaten to victory lane by Colton Herta, and claimed second and fourth in the final points standings.

Penske driver Newgarden, who won the 2017 and 2019 championships, was effusive in his praise for Palou and said the second-year driver should be "very proud" of the "amazing job" produced in this year's IndyCar reckoning - the Spaniard's first season with the Ganassi team. 

“I think he's done a good job about maximising his opportunity, right?" said Newgarden.

"Coming up, we all dream of having that type of team around you. Certainly within your second year, that's a dream opportunity. So he's certainly got all the resources and people around him to make it happen.

“And he's done the job, clearly. He's been solid all year, been well within the fight.

"I said earlier in the year, I think from the young crop of drivers he looks the most complete. Maybe that's just because he has a couple more years on a lot of the other younger guys.

“He's definitely been very complete all year; he seems to be very Dixon-esque in a lot of ways.

"Scott has been sort of the measure over the last couple of decades of how you be a champion. Alex seems to embody that pretty well.

“He could have a very good run over the course of his career. I'm sure he'll have a lot of time to stick around and see what he can do.”

Champion Alex Palou, Chip Ganassi Racing Honda

Champion Alex Palou, Chip Ganassi Racing Honda

Photo by: Michael L. Levitt / Motorsport Images

Six-time champion Dixon was also pleased to see his Chip Ganassi Racing team-mate secure his first IndyCar crown, and was happy that the team behind the #10 car could enjoy its first championship success since Dario Franchitti in 2011.

“Alex was smiling, he's always smiling, so that wasn't a change," said Dixon.

"But just to see I think everybody on the #10 car side have that relief of capturing the championship is very special. So big off-season for everybody at Ganassi to be very happy about.”

Dixon was also unstinting in his praise of Palou as a team-mate and referred to him as “veteran-like” in his handling of a championship challenge.

“The progression was strong from the get-go,” said the 40-year-old New Zealander.

“I think he definitely took a lot in with the previous season at [Dale Coyne Racing]. Michael Cannon [now Dixon’s race engineer] and a few of the engineers that have known Alex from the previous year knew he was quick.

"Out of the shortlist of drivers that had the possibility of filling that seat, he was the guy I said, “You’ve got to go for”.

“His progression has been, again, veteran-like, which has been really interesting. He definitely asks a lot of questions. He's not shy to ask questions.

Alex Palou, Chip Ganassi Racing Honda

Alex Palou, Chip Ganassi Racing Honda

Photo by: Barry Cantrell / Motorsport Images

"But he processes it very well. I think as we've seen throughout the season, the kind of lows that they've had maybe – not many lows – but the way that they've reacted to it as a group.

"He's had a lot of help obviously from the whole group of Ganassi, especially on the engineering side, but then also with Dario [Franchitti] and with the other drivers.

“The progression has been quick and fast. I think his natural talent, that's the biggest thing you look for, right? If it was a new track or a track he didn't know that well, he would methodically go through it from session to session. That was definitely very impressive.”

Dixon also said Palou’s title triumph will have a galvanising effect at Ganassi.

“Honestly, it's great for the team. Obviously it has raised the bar, but I think it's raised the bar for all of us this year to keep pushing. It definitely feels like kind of the 2009 through sort of '12, '13 period with Dario, which is great.

“I’m excited for team morale, that's the big thing. Obviously when you get beat, when it's not just the drivers but the crews as well, it pushes everybody a lot harder. Hopefully we can come out of the gate very strong.

“Super proud of what the #10 car has done. Super proud of Alex. Man, he's done a tremendous job this year.”

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