(LONG BEACH, CA) Alex Palou (Chip Ganassi Racing) had a sizable lead in the NTT IndyCar Series’ points standings heading into Sunday’s Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach.
All he needed to do was steer the No. 10 NTT DATA Chip Ganassi Racing Honda to a finish above twelfth place. Mission easily accomplished.
With a fourth-place result at the 11-turn, 1.968-mile street course, Palou claimed his first-ever Astor Cup as the series champion with a 38-point triumph over two-time champion Josef Newgarden (Team Penske), 549-511.
The 24-year-old Palou, who joined the Ganassi franchise this season, became the first Spainard to win an IndyCar title.
“What a race, what a year, what a season,” Palou said afterwards. “This team is amazing. Dream completed. Let’s go get another one now!”
Sunday’s race saw Colton Herta (Andretti Autosport), who started 14th in the field of 28, pick up his third win of the season with a narrow .5883 second victory over Newgarden that featured a hectic chase in the final 20 laps. Herta, 22, finished the season fifth in points but ended the season with back-to-back wins, including Sunday’s swan song in his hometown.
“It’s been on my bucket list for so long,” said Herta. “It feels amazing. Super happy.”
Defending IndyCar champ Scott Dixon (Chip Ganassi Racing) finished third on the day and ended the season fourth in points.
Pato O’Ward, who started Sunday sitting in second place in points (-35 behind Palou), saw his No. 5 Arrow McLaren SP Chevy get hit from behind during the opening lap, which dropped him to the back of the field. Extensive repair time to the car resulted in a disappointing 27th place finish as the setback pushed his 2021 points finish to third overall.
In the rookie crop, Scott McLaughlin (Team Penske) all but secured Rookie of the Year honors with a 11th place result, which concluded his inaugural IndyCar campaign as 14th place overall in points, some 30-plus points ahead of fellow newcomer Romain Grosjean (Dale Coyne Racing).
IndyCar will resume action in 2022 with a 17-race schedule that includes a return stop to World Wide Technology Raceway at Gateway in Madison, Illinois on Saturday, August 20 for the Bommarito Automotive Group 500.
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