Spain's Palou captures IndyCar crown with Portland triumph

Spanish driver Alex Palou clinched the IndyCar season points crown with a victory at the Portland Grand Prix (Sean Gardner)
Spanish driver Alex Palou clinched the IndyCar season points crown with a victory at the Portland Grand Prix (Sean Gardner)

Spain's Alex Palou clinched the 2023 IndyCar season drivers championship on Sunday by winning the Portland Grand Prix, capturing his second points title in three campaigns.

The 26-year-old Spaniard won his fifth race of the year after 110 laps over the 1.964-mile Portland International Raceway course with Sweden's Felix Rosenqvist second and New Zealand's Scott Dixon third at the 12-turn Oregon layout.

"That's what we wanted," Palou said of celebrating the season crown after a race victory. "It was an amazing weekend overall. We just had a really fast car.

"Super proud to be here in Victory Lane. Super proud of the second championship."

Palou, whose first IndyCar crown came in 2021, was on 618 points after 16 of 17 races with a 91-point edge on Dixon, his Chip Ganassi Racing teammate, and only 54 points on offer next week at Laguna Seca, where Palou is defending champion.

"I never thought I would be an IndyCar champion and to be a two-time IndyCar champion is just amazing, like a dream," Palou said.

Not since France's Sebastien Bourdais won the 2007 title had the IndyCar crown been decided before the season finale.

"We knew we had to go for it," Palou said. "We just raced how we've been doing all season."

Palou's other wins this season came at the Indianapolis road course and three in a row at Detroit, Road America and Mid-Ohio.

"He does everything right," Dixon said. "He's a hell of a competitor, huge talent. He has done a hell of a job."

Dixon, 43, won the two prior races for his only season triumphs to make a late charge. He was the only racer remaining with a chance to overtake Palou but missed out on his chance at a record-tying seventh career IndyCar title.

"It was pretty blah to be honest," Dixon said of his season. "There were definitely some races where we didn't capitalize. You can always pick a season to pieces."

It was the 15th all-time IndyCar crown for a Ganassi Racing driver.

"All in all, you've got to look at the big picture. (For Ganassi) to secure 1-2 in the championship, that's tough to do in this competition. For us to rebound the way the team did just meant everything."

US pole-sitter Graham Rahal seized the lead at the start over defending champion Scott McLaughlin of New Zealand while Palou charged from fifth to third, pushing Dixon to fifth.

Palou took the lead after the first series of pit stops around lap 30 with Dixon six seconds behind in second place, both staying out longer than rivals before refueling.

The margin shrank to less than 0.7 of a second before Palou went to the pits on lap 50, leaving Dixon ahead until the Kiwi refueled 10 laps later and Palou regained the lead.

After a final pit stop exchange with 30 laps remaining, Palou came out ahead of Dixon and stayed in the lead to the finish.

"We just had a really fast car," said Palou. "Whatever we did today, we were going to come up in a good position."