Palou reclaims IndyCar points lead with Portland comeback win - The Race
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Palou reclaims IndyCar points lead with Portland comeback win

Sep 12 2021
By Jack Benyon

Polesitter Alex Palou came back from 16th due to a multi-car first lap incident to win the Portland IndyCar race, retaking the championship lead and extending the gap to 25 with two races remaining.

At the start Arrow McLaren SP’s Felix Rosenqvist clipped the left-rear of Scott Dixon after he had checked up entering the Festival chicane. The contact forced Palou and Rosenqvist into the run-off and Alexander Rossi followed.

The order was reshuffled under the resulting caution and Palou, Dixon, Rossi and Rosenqvist pitted on lap 10 in an attempt to go off strategy and make up the ground they lost having dropped to 16th and back in the initial incident.

Even though he was aggressive at the start, O’Ward was right over on the right-hand side of the racetrack and was the first car – having started seventh – to actually drive the first corner properly. He was rewarded with the lead.

O’Ward – provisionally 50 points in the lead of the championship at this point – and Graham Rahal took off at the head of the field but soon switched to target three-step strategies, with Rahal overcutting O’Ward in the pits.

When they had cycled back to the front, a caution on lap 52 for the stopped debutant Callum Ilott and Dalton Kellett in separate incidents was anticipated by O’Ward and some fellow gamblers, while Rahal looked to be flummoxed by staying out.

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However, the caution laps put Rahal in a position to save fuel and potentially make the end of the race on one more pitstop. O’Ward fell to 12th but with more fuel and fresh tyres.

The caution was good for those in the championship contending gaggle that pitted early on, as Palou graduated to fourth, having jumped Josef Newgarden in the previous stops with an overcut that also gave him a crucial championship point for leading a lap.

Newgarden in turn had jumped Dixon with the move of the race in a committed dive at almost 180mph into Turn 12, a rare but rewarding overtake.

When the race resumed on lap 57 of 110, O’Ward had no pace and was passed by two cars on the same strategy. At one stage he also reported a loss of power.

When it came time for the final stops, Rahal was the first in along with second-place Ed Jones, but both were jumped by later stoppers as clean air and drivers with more fuel to burn due to pitting later usurped Rahal and robbed him of a chance of ending his four-year winless streak with an otherwise dominant performance.

Palou leaped ahead of Rossi on his stop to take the lead and Rossi passed Dixon at Turn 1 as the latter left the pits, setting the podium positions.

A caution came out with 24 laps left, bunching the pack and then another soon followed, but an 18-lap sprint to the end went the way of Palou – who is the first driver to win three races this season.

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Rossi has had a difficult season but took a first podium of the year, ahead of Dixon who is still in the championship hunt albeit 49 points behind with two races remaining.

Meyer Shank’s Harvey held on for fifth ahead of Newgarden from Penske – now 39 points behind Palou, with Rosenqvist and Marcus Ericsson rounding out the top seven in the race.

Ganassi’s Ericsson looked set for another big points weekend when he took fourth on track after the first lap incident.

Like O’Ward, Ericsson took a second stop for the Ilott/Kellett caution from which he only fell back, as low as 18th. However, a gamble to stay out late during the last round of stops looking for a caution paid off when he lost fewer places than he should when a caution fortuitously happened, and he emerged in seventh where he remained to the end.

Colton Herta, Scott McLaughlin and Rahal rounded out the top 10.

O’Ward continued to fall back lacking any sort of reasonable pace, eventually finishing 14th and is now 25 points behind Palou having led by nine entering the race.

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Romain Grosjean finished 23rd and 16 laps down after a mistake at Turn 1 on lap one for the Dale Coyne Racing driver. Unless something emerges proving otherwise, it looked like Grosjean totally misjudged his braking point in what might be his worst error since moving to IndyCar.

He took out James Hinchcliffe and Helio Castroneves, Ilott and Will Power were also caught up in the incident.

Jimmie Johnson took 20th, which didn’t match his best IndyCar finish since his switch from NASCAR, but his best laptime was right there and he was as competitive as he has been anywhere else this year during the race.

Race Results

Pos Name Team Car Laps Laps Led Total Time Fastest Lap Pitstops Pts
1 Alex Palou Chip Ganassi Racing Dallara DW12-Honda 110 29 2h7m04.13s 1m0.332s 3 52
2 Alexander Rossi Andretti Autosport Dallara DW12-Honda 110 0 +1.289s 1m0.361s 3 40
3 Scott Dixon Chip Ganassi Racing Dallara DW12-Honda 110 4 +4.441s 1m0.281s 3 36
4 Jack Harvey Meyer Shank Racing Dallara DW12-Honda 110 5 +8.221s 1m0.646s 2 33
5 Josef Newgarden Team Penske Dallara DW12-Chevrolet 110 0 +8.957s 1m0.685s 2 30
6 Felix Rosenqvist Arrow McLaren SP Dallara DW12-Chevrolet 110 0 +9.323s 1m0.656s 3 28
7 Marcus Ericsson Chip Ganassi Racing Dallara DW12-Honda 110 1 +10.342s 1m0.823s 3 27
8 Colton Herta Andretti Autosport Dallara DW12-Honda 110 0 +12.263s 1m0.713s 3 24
9 Scott McLaughlin Team Penske Dallara DW12-Chevrolet 110 5 +13.944s 1m0.054s 3 23
10 Graham Rahal Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing Dallara DW12-Honda 110 36 +17.545s 1m0.606s 2 23
11 Ed Jones Dale Coyne Racing with Vasser-Sullivan Dallara DW12-Honda 110 2 +18.159s 1m0.88s 2 20
12 Takuma Sato Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing Dallara DW12-Honda 110 0 +18.751s 1m01.046s 2 18
13 Will Power Team Penske Dallara DW12-Chevrolet 110 0 +19.831s 1m0.552s 7 17
14 Patricio O'Ward Arrow McLaren SP Dallara DW12-Chevrolet 110 28 +20.849s 1m0.597s 3 17
15 Ryan Hunter-Reay Andretti Autosport Dallara DW12-Honda 110 0 +25.564s 1m0.328s 3 15
16 Conor Daly Ed Carpenter Racing Dallara DW12-Chevrolet 110 0 +27.397s 1m0.534s 3 14
17 Rinus VeeKay Ed Carpenter Racing Dallara DW12-Chevrolet 110 0 +31.946s 1m0.009s 3 13
18 Sébastien Bourdais A.J. Foyt Enterprises Dallara DW12-Chevrolet 110 0 +32.426s 1m0.569s 3 12
19 Max Chilton Carlin Dallara DW12-Chevrolet 110 0 +33.29s 1m0.55s 3 11
20 Jimmie Johnson Chip Ganassi Racing Dallara DW12-Honda 110 0 +33.703s 1m0.691s 4 10
21 Simon Pagenaud Team Penske Dallara DW12-Chevrolet 109 0 +1 lap 1m0.328s 3 9
22 Romain Grosjean Dale Coyne Racing with RWR Dallara DW12-Honda 95 0 +15 laps 59.438s 5 8
23 Helio Castroneves Meyer Shank Racing Dallara DW12-Honda 91 0 +19 laps 59.943s 4 7
Oliver Askew Arrow McLaren SP, Ed Carpenter Racing Dallara DW12-Chevrolet 89 0 DNF 1m01.076s 3 6
Callum Ilott Juncos Hollinger Racing Dallara DW12-Chevrolet 77 0 DNF 1m0.498s 3 5
Dalton Kellett A.J. Foyt Enterprises Dallara DW12-Chevrolet 50 0 DNF 1m0.762s 1 5
James Hinchcliffe Andretti Autosport Dallara DW12-Honda 1 0 DNF 0s 1 5

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