Alex Palou is returning to the site of a major life-changing event. The new Chip Ganassi Racing driver rocked up to Barber Motorsports Park for Round 1 of the 2021 NTT IndyCar Series and promptly led the team in qualifying and won in his debut race with the defending title winners.
Starting third, Palou took the No. 10 Honda to a heady victory at Barber after leading 56 of 90 laps and, from there, the Spaniard would go on to win two more races and claim the championship for CGR. The finely manicured road course has become a venue that carries extra meaning for Palou as he returns this weekend in search of his first victory of the year.
“A lot of super special — it was the first race I did with with Ganassi and it was our first win as well,” Palou (pictured above celebrating the win with runners-up Will Power and Scott Dixon) told RACER. “I think of it as one of, if not the most special tracks, apart from Indianapolis. We had an amazing weekend last year and need to see if we can defend that race win. It’s not going to be easy.”
The CGR team as a whole is trying to pay its first visit to victory lane in the new season. Team Penske has won three in a row and while the Ganassi squad has been sharp, Palou is hoping the first visit to something other than a street course or oval will unlock whatever it needs to outrun its rivals.
“We’ve had a good start to the year; I have more points than last year at this time,” he said. “We’ve had two podiums in three races, and we still haven’t gone to a road course and that’s where I’m more comfortable. That doesn’t mean that I’m going to be a lot better there. It could be the opposite. But I was struggling a lot last year on on street courses until we went to the later races and I was still in a place where I was gaining confidence. This year, we fight and we haven’t won yet, but I don’t think we are lacking anything, really. It’s just that when we had to execute, unfortunately, I didn’t. They were better. So yeah, we are lacking a little bit on results, and Penske has had a really good start, but we can do this. I know we can.”
Since his arrival at CGR, Palou has garnered the majority of the team’s best finishes. His blend of speed and consistency had been a perfect fit alongside six-time champion Scott Dixon where they, along with teammate Marcus Ericsson, have been a powerful trio for Ganassi. From a driver hierarchy standpoint, Palou sees it as a flat line.
“I think we all work equally,” he said. “That’s what I was surprised by when I first came to the team. Nobody is more or more important or has more to say inside the team than other drivers. So I think that pushes all of us to just do better and be better, and lifts the team overall. The way we do things always gives us a chance to fight for the win.”