Long Beach, California, Sep 26 (EFE).- “He’s … mature and calm for his age,” Ramon Palou, the father of Indycar driver Alex, just minutes before the last Indycar Grand Prix of the season in Long Beach, California.
And that maturity and, above all, patience was demonstrated by the 24-year-old Palou, driving for Chip Ganassi Racing, in winning the Indycar championship on Sunday, although he ended up in fourth place in the last race of the year.
Despite finishing Sunday’s race in fourth place, Palou ended the year with 549 points, ahead of US driver Josef Newgarden and Mexico’s Pato O’Ward, who had to leave the race after being involved in an accident.
Palou is the first Spaniard in history to win the Indycar title, the most important US single-seat auto racing competition, and he is one of the youngest drivers ever to reach the No. 1 spot.
Although O’Ward, driving for Arrow McLaren SP, was his main pursuer, Ed Jones (with Dale Coyne Racing) accidentally rear-ended him early in the race, forcing him out of the contest a few laps after the crash.
Palou had been just behind the scene of the crash but managed to avoid the two vehicles involved.
But 83 laps still remained in the race after the accident and Newgarden, who had a remote chance of winning the title, was leading at the time. In fact, shortly after the incident, US driver Colton Herta – who wound up winning Sunday’s race – easily passed Palou, who gave him little resistance.
But Palou’s strategy at the time was clear, since – with O’Ward out of the running – he could have finished all the way down in 24th place and still have beat out Newgarden, one of the favorites among the US drivers and the winner of the Indycar championship on two previous occasions, in the overall ranking.
The Spaniard, however, continued to drive with great steadiness and moved up past other drivers during the course of the race until he was in fourth by the end of the day.
Scott Dixon – Palou’s teammate on Chip Ganassi Racing and an Indycar legend, having won the competition six times – finished the race in third place. Only Dixon, at age 23 in 2003, and Sam Hornish, at age 22 in 2001, have managed to win the championship at a younger age than Palou.
“They showed me a few ‘little tricks’ to keep pushing and keep doing what we’ve been doing all season,” a smiling Palou told EFE before the race, referring to Dixon and Jimmy Johnson, a seven-time NASCAR winner.