Alex Palou scores 1st career IndyCar win; Jimmie Johnson satisfied with 19th-place end in debut

Fernando Alonso is winless so far this season in Formula One. Same with Carlos Sainz.

Over in IndyCar, however, Alex Palou scored a victory for Spain.

Palou got his first career win – in his first race with Chip Ganassi Racing – by holding off a pair of series champions in Sunday’s season-opening race at Barber Motorsports Park. The amicable 24-year-old raised fists in the air when he realized he’d reached victory lane before his fellow countrymen, who both dashed 5,000 miles away in Italy prior Sunday.

Palou is just the second Spaniard to win in the IndyCar Series, joining Oriol Servia, who triumphed in 2005 at Montreal.

“It’s just amazing, but I think it was part of the job,” Palou said. “When you are part of a big team and a successful team like Chip Ganassi, they give you all the tools. You have everything you need to win, and that’s why you see so many successful drivers.”

Palou at that point pledged to track down the best fried chicken in Alabama to celebrate his achievement.

“I think that 80% of the drivers will tell you that after a race we need something that is not good for our body, and that’s what I’m going to take tonight, if I can, fried chicken. And fries. Lots of fries,” he said.

Palou utilized a two-stop strategy on the picturesque permanent road course to assume responsibility for the race but still had to hold off hard-charging Will Power and Ganassi teammate Scott Dixon over the closing laps. Palou beat Power by .4016 seconds to guarantee his first success in quite a while first race driving for the celebrated Ganassi organization.

Dixon, the six-time and reigning IndyCar champion, completed third and was trailed by shaft sitter Pato O’Ward, who was on a three-stop strategy.

Palou was the calmer offseason marking of the Ganassi association, which likewise added seven-time NASCAR champion Jimmie Johnson to the four-vehicle arrangement. In any case, Ganassi additionally faced a challenge on Palou, who had burned through one season driving for Dale Coyne Racing with one podium finish and one lap drove throughout the year.

Palou had hustled in Japan and Europe beforehand however acquainted himself with Ganassi in August at the Indianapolis 500 in order to get some work with an elite team.

“One of the dreams was to come here to the U.S., and once you are in the U.S., you want to be more and you want to be competitive, and to be competitive, I wanted to be part of Chip,” Palou said. “I actually introduced myself to Chip at the Indy 500 because I wanted to be part of that team. I saw the spirit of the team. To be part of Chip Ganassi is 50 percent of another dream, which is to become a champion.”

Ganassi had been impressed through preseason testing and cautioned Palou would be a power this season.

“We did some testing over the winter, and he was quick all day long at the tests; at one test, he was quicker than Dixon,” Ganassi said. “So we knew the potential was there, but you don’t know where you are relative to other teams.”

Ganassi got done with three drivers in the main eight, as Marcus Ericsson completed eighth, and Dixon has delighted in this youthful, new partner who will not quit chasing after him both at the shop and at the race track.

“He’s actually one of those really nice guys. There has to be some underlying thing going on there somewhere. None of us have found it yet,” Dixon said of Palou. “It’s great to see somebody that’s easy to work with.

“Some drivers that we all get to work with can be somewhat difficult, but he is extremely willing and wanting to learn, asks a lot of questions, sends a lot of text messages to try and just do a better job. He’s been a real pleasure.”

All things considered, the majority of the consideration driving into the race was on the stacked rookie class of Johnson, previous Formula One driver Romain Grosjean and three-time and protecting Australian Supercars champion Scott McLaughlin.

Johnson, who at 45 is older than Palou’s dad, is learning each meeting and taking little gains. He celebrated not qualifying keep going on Saturday and was happy with his nineteenth spot finish on Sunday.

Johnson had a creating rankle on his hand after the race, kept away from a first-lap crash and recuperated from an early twist.

“Just a ton of learning experiences throughout the day,” Johnson said. “I just can’t say too many times how different this is and how specialized this craft is.”

Johnson later posted to his Twitter account: “Today exceeded ALL expectations, I can’t wait to do it again next week.”

Grosjean, in his first race since a searing November crash in Bahrain, completed tenth for Dale Coyne Racing. McLaughlin was fourteenth for Team Penske.

Three-time Barber victor Josef Newgarden set off a unique opening-lap crash that gathered Colton Herta and Ryan Hunter-Reay – a couple of Andretti Autosport title competitors – alongside Felix Rosenqvist.

Rosenqvist, who momentarily went airborne, additionally smashed practically speaking and had his passing lap precluded, yet he had the option to get his vehicle in the groove again. Herta, Newgarden and Hunter-Reay were managed without finishing a solitary lap.

“I got loose coming over the hill and then touched the grass. I think once I touched the grass I’m basically sideways,” said Newgarden, the two-time series champion who was runner-up last season. “I feel really bad for anyone who got involved in that. Obviously, my mess created a bigger mess, so any of the cars that got involved I’m really sorry because it was us that tipped it off.”

Herta, who crashed during Saturday practice, wasn’t worried about the hit he’d take in the title battle.

“This sucks, man, and I’m ready to get out of here,” Herta said. “It’s such a competitive year and guys are going to have bad races and guys aren’t going to do well everywhere. It obviously sucks for us because now we’re on the back foot, but we have plenty of races left to get back in it.”

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