Palou wrapped up the 2021 IndyCar title with fourth place at the final round at Long Beach, which noticed him safe the crown 38 factors forward of two-time champion Josef Newgarden.
Having solely stepped as much as IndyCar final season with Dale Coyne Racing, after catching the attention ending in third place within the Tremendous System drivers’ championship in 2019, Palou made an instantaneous impression on the Chip Ganassi Racing crew over the winter getting ready for his gorgeous title cost.
“It is as massive because it will get,” mentioned Ganassi, who has seen Palou accrue three wins and 5 different podiums in his first 12 months on the squad. “It has been a couple of dry years within the #10 automobile. I am going again and consider Dario [Franchitti] and Dan Wheldon within the #10, all of the successes that they had. Sadly for one motive or one other, we’ve not discovered that proper mixture for a couple of years.
“Championships are gained by numerous exhausting work, by lots of people making numerous sacrifices that are not apparent to the bare eye or get misplaced they usually by no means get the press or the protection of the late nights over the winter in Indianapolis, chilly and darkish and blowing snow. Guys are in there toiling away on their computer systems or on their automobiles, making them just a bit higher, preparing for the beginning of the season or preparing for the Indianapolis 500. That is the place the championships are gained.
“There’s a complete slew of individuals again in Indianapolis that I am positive proper now have an enormous smile on their face. They’re in our race store, members of the family that are not in a position to be right here with their spouses, boyfriends or girlfriends. It is a pleasure to signify these folks. So that is what makes this championship particular.”
Champion Alex Palou, Chip Ganassi Racing Honda
Photograph by: Michael L. Levitt / Motorsport Images
Ganassi recalled Palou’s first check with crew at Barber Motorsports Park, on the finish of his rookie season spent at Dale Coyne Racing, during which he scored a single podium.
“All 4 automobiles have been there, and he ended up quickest,” mentioned Ganassi. “We have been like, ‘Jeez’. However we have been making an attempt numerous issues. You by no means actually know at a check on a selected day, time of the day, tyres, no matter – you at all times discover some rationalisation for why a man was quick or wasn’t quick. We sort of simply took it with a grain of salt.
“Then in fact we present up for the race, he was quickest in follow. We mentioned, ‘OK, nice, that is good, however we’ve got qualifying, a race, loads of expertise across the paddock.’ Then he was, in fact, quickest [of the Ganassi cars] in qualifying, then gained the race. He had Will Energy and Scott Dixon respiration down his neck the entire day. He confirmed there that he may stand the strain. He may win. He did not put a wheel mistaken all day.
“You kind of construct on that. You go from there. However, yeah, early on within the season, you simply do not know if a younger man like that has endurance all season or does he get drained in June or July or one thing!
“I’ve at all times mentioned that driving IndyCars – the precise driving half is just not exhausting, the journey is just not too exhausting, the testing is just not dangerous, the sponsorship work round our crew is just not exhausting. However for some motive once you put all of it collectively, it is exhausting. He was in a position to put all that collectively and nonetheless have extra in his tank.”
Ganassi additionally acknowledged the significance of Palou’s 12 months in Tremendous System, during which he was Rookie of the Yr however was just one mechanical DNF away from successful the title.
“Clearly his apprentice programme into racing most just lately was in Japan,” mentioned Ganassi. “I believe he brings numerous that kind of Japanese mentality to the crew, which numerous us discover refreshing. Being a Honda crew and being with them for a few years, many wins, he introduced a sure fortitude I’d say that you simply see in that a part of the world.
“With that I believe he is obtained some good administration round him. We have been approached by a buddy of our crew and a buddy of his, a man named Roger Yasukawa who mentioned, ‘You bought to check out this child’. We mentioned, ‘Certain, prepare a gathering or one thing. That is the way it actually obtained began.’”
Champion Alex Palou, Chip Ganassi Racing Honda
Photograph by: Geoff Miller / Motorsport Images
Requested if Palou reminded him of any of the crew’s alumni, Ganassi mentioned: “He is quite a bit like Dixon. Sort of not numerous baggage. Simply focuses. Yeah, quite a bit like Dixon.”
Ganassi additionally agreed that considered one of Palou’s standout moments was his bounce again from a crash throughout follow at Indy.
“Whenever you hit the wall at 215[mph] or no matter, 220 at Indy, you are not stunned when a man goes up the subsequent day and goes about 210 after working 220, 225, no matter. That may sluggish you down a little bit bit. I used to be actually stunned that it did not have an effect on him a lot. We have been all fairly shocked. He was proper again to hurry when he obtained within the automobile. That stunned us quite a bit.”