PORTLAND, Ore. — Alex Palou drove to victory in the Grand Prix of Portland on Sunday and in doing so regained the lead in the NTT IndyCar Championship standings.
Palou started on pole but quickly lost the top spot in the field having driven too hot into the first corner, forcing him to take the escape route inside the turn. Several other cars were collected at the start forcing a caution for the first 11 laps of the race.
When all was reorganized, Palou found himself in 16th once the green flag was drop once again.
“We kept our heads down, and we knew the race was really long,” Palou said. “I cannot believe it. We made it (on fuel). The guys made it. They just gave me the numbers, and we just follow it. The strategy was amazing.”
Graham Rahal and Pato O’Ward were the big beneficiaries of the early caution, which cycled them to the front. In a play to try and finagle the fuel strategy in their favor, Rahal’s team opted to pit on Lap 35, much later than most other drivers. The goal was to try and make it on a two-stop strategy.
For a while, it appeared it would pay off, but on Lap 51 another caution was brought out after rookie driver Callum Ilott and Dalton Kellett stopped on track with some damage to their cars.
O’Ward and a handful of drivers pitted right before the caution waved in order to take advantage of the track position it would gain them.
In the end, the Ganassi cars in Palou and Scott Dixon were able to play their three-stop strategy perfectly as the caution came at the perfect time for them to pit on Lap 80 for the final time, enabling them to not have to fuel-save for the last stint.
“I think the race we did today, it’s just amazing,” Palou said. “Not me, but the guys, with the strategy, with the pit stops, with everything. With all the bad luck we had, we still won. I’m proud about that. Fried chicken tonight!”
Rahal ended up having to surrender the lead before Palou’s final stop cycling him back to the middle of the field.
Alexander Rossi cycled into second after the final round of stops, while Dixon ended up third. Late cautions on Lap 87 for Simon Pagenaud spinning and stalling and Oliver Askew doing the same thing on Lap 90 didn’t change much of anything as Palou would never be threatened by Rossi. That is how they would finish as Palou held on to take his third win of the year.
Pato O’Ward’s strategy call ended up costing after having stayed out on tires early and he finished 14th, 25-points behind Palou in the championship hunt.
Palou regains the championship lead after having been behind O’Ward by as much as 40-points at one point after having disappointing results in races since racing at Indianapolis in late July.
The series has just two races left as they will head to Monterrey, California for the Grand Prix of Monterrey on Sunday, Sept. 19. The season finale will be at the Grand Prix of Long Beach a week later.
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