Alex Palou just needed to finish within a couple of positions of teammate Scott Dixon to secure his 2023 IndyCar championship. He did one better, winning the race in dominant fashion.
Palou's fifth win of the season caps off one of the most spectacular seasons in IndyCar history. On track, Palou has been both the most consistent and the driver that collected the most wins. Off it, he has been the center of a second straight Summer of contractual controversy as Chip Ganassi Racing and McLaren continue to fight for his services.
This time last year, Palou was still in the middle of his first dispute. In a story that played out in dueling announcements, McLaren attempted to wrestle away Palou from Ganassi for the 2023 season. Palou ultimately stayed at Ganassi for 2023, but he seemed bound for McLaren in 2024. As he racked up the wins and became the clear championship favorite at a dominant Ganassi program, a return suddenly seemed inevitable. Now, the two-time champion and still official free agent's expected return has been confirmed by Chip Ganassi in victory lane. He still has the matter of an eight-figure lawsuit to deal with, but IndyCar's next great star should be staying put.
That story has been big, but not big enough to overshadow what Palou has done on track. The Ganassi driver has collected a season-leading five wins, yes, but the more impressive accomplishment is his consistency. In a series a spec chassis and a deeper pool of talent than just about any category in the world, Palou's worst finish this year was an eighth in the season opener. Another eighth and two sevenths in the past six races have been his cold streak; other than that, he has only finished in the top five.
By winning the title a round early, Palou ensures the first season of what is now IndyCar without a championship in play in the season finale since Sebastien Bourdais finished running away with his fourth ChampCar title in 2007. Palou had the chance to secure the title two races early, but two fuel mileage wins by teammate Scott Dixon in the two races before this event put a little bit of pressure on Palou.
Additionally, Dixon is now locked into second in the driver's championship. That means CGR has locked down a 1-2 in the championship. The program's third driver, Marcus Ericsson, is being replaced by incoming rookie Linus Lundqvist. That trio are expected to be joined by 2023 part-timer Marcus Armstrong for the 2024 campaign. Penske, Andretti, and McLaren will all have their own three-plus driver lineups aiming for a title next year, but CGR's dynamic duo of Palou and Dixon should enter the season as narrow favorites.
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