Spain's Palou celebrates move to new team with first IndyCar victory

Los Angeles (AFP) –


Spain's Alex Palou claimed his first IndyCar Series win in his Chip Ganassi debut, fending off a late challenge from Will Power to capture the IndyCar Grand Prix of Alabama on Sunday.

The 24-year-old Palou won in his 15th career IndyCar start. He drove last year for Dale Coyne Racing.

"We knew we had the best team, the best car," Palou said. "Yeah, it was possible. Ricky, my chief engineer, told me we cannot win them all, but let's win the first one. We did it, it's amazing. Chip, all the team did an amazing job. We had the best cars. It’s amazing to be part of the winning drivers and starting strong.

"It was one of those days when everything went well. We got good fuel mileage, good tire management and good pace."

Australia's Power tried his best to catch Palou but could only get within two seconds of the winner in the closing laps in Birmingham, Alabama.

Palou had the perfect game plan, benefitting from a two-stop pit strategy to take the chequered flag at Barber Motorsports Park ahead of previous series champs Scott Dixon, also driving for Chip Ganassi, and Power.

“Just blew my mind how fast Alex was in that first stint,” Penske driver Power said. “I had absolutely nothing for him. He just pulled away.”

Pole-sitter Pato O’Ward of Mexico finished fourth, followed by France's Sebastien Bourdais.

Rinus VeeKay, Marcus Ericsson, Graham Rahal, Alexander Rossi and Romain Grosjean completed the top 10.

France's Grosjean was making his IndyCar debut after surviving a fiery Formula One crash in Bahrain in November.

The race got off to a rocky start when three-time track winner Josef Newgarden spun in turn five on the opening lap. That sparked a multicar crash involving Colton Herta, Ryan Hunter-Reay, Felix Rosenqvist and Max Chilton.

"I wanted to just get rolling," Newgarden said. "I felt like we had so much potential. We had a really good car underneath us, and the team worked really hard and was ready to show that. I made a mistake. I got loose in traffic coming up the hill.

"So just feel bad for causing a big wreck and anyone who was involved because of me. It's tough to have a mistake like that."