Listen Live
Alex Palou celebrates at Thermal

Source: James Black/Penske Entertainment / other

THERMAL CLUB, Calif. — No points, just cold, hard cash. That is what was on the line in the arid desert of Coachella in southern California on Sunday.

The IndyCar paddock took on the cheesegrater surface of the over 3-mile long circuit at The Thermal Club with a purse of $1 Million on the line.

After three races and a lot of unique strategies executed by the teams, it would be nothing short of a Sunday drive in the desert for Alex Palou who led every lap of his heat race and the feature race to secure a $500,000 payday for he and his Chip Ganassi team.

Despite there being no points awarded for the victory, Palou said the victory was a good pick-me-up for the team after having a lackluster showing at St. Pete two weeks ago.

“Yeah, amazing to get the win, to get the money, just that feeling of winning again. It’s what we needed,” Palou said of the victory.

The field was split into three races. Two 10-lap heat races in which the IndyCar paddock was split in half and a blind draw decided which heat race you would take part in. Felix Rosenqvist and Palou were the fastest in their respective qualifying sessions for each heat race.

The qualifying effort was all Rosenqvist needed as he had no trouble keeping the lead. That was despite having to endure a restart because of an opening lap calamity that resulted in Scott Dixon rear-ending Romain Grosjean. The collision spun Grosjean out causing terminal damage to his car. It also launched Grosjean into Rinus Veekay who was also forced to retire his car.

Dixon was assessed a penalty for avoidable contact, resulting in a drive-through penalty that ended his day.

“I’m super happy we were able to have this week because it’s kind of been a mix of a race and a test for us, just trying different things, getting to know each other more,” Rosenqvist said as he is still getting acclimated with his new team at Meyer Shank Racing.

The second heat race was dominated by Palou and his CGR teammate Marcus Armstrong who together opened up a 10-second gap on the rest of the field cruising into the feature event.

The hard racing was back in the field. With the top six drivers in each heat race advancing, it looked bleak for Arrow McLaren’s drivers who qualified outside the transfer spots. They fought amongst each other with Alexander Rossi winning out. He bumped, pushed, and clawed his way into the sixth position and ensured AMSP would not be shut out of the feature.

The final race of the day, a 20-lap feature event with a “halftime” period in the middle, was dominated by Alex Palou who would go off in the pole position having a faster qualifying speed than Rosenqvist.

The compelling part of the race came from Colton Herta and company who opted to essentially forgo racing in the opening ten laps. Instead, they chose to save their tires, since teams were not allowed to change their tires in the feature race.

The premise was to save his tires for the final ten laps in which he could have more grip and thus move through the field more easily. Other drivers caught on though and the first ten laps turned into what amounted to a tire-saving procession.

Herta’s strategy paid off somewhat as he went from 10th to 4th on the grid, ensuring a big payday of his own from the $1 Million purse.

Scott McLaughlin, who got a good start at the beginning to jump to 2nd, would finish in the runner-up spot behind Palou. Rosenqvist settled for third.

“Yeah, the start of race two, I tried to have a go at Alex, but ultimately he was just a little bit faster with that clean air,” McLaughlin said. “It was always going to be clean air was going to be king this weekend. I settled in, tried to maximize what I had. That was second today.”

The series will have a few weeks off before jumping back into racing for points. They will return to California where they will hit the streets of Long Beach in Late April.

The post Palou Hits The Big Money In IndyCar Thermal Challenge appeared first on WIBC 93.1 FM.

Palou Hits The Big Money In IndyCar Thermal Challenge  was originally published on

Leave a Reply