Alex Palou has stormed to the 2023 IndyCar title with a round to spare following his victory this morning in Portland. The win is Palou’s fifth of the season and builds his lead to an unassailable 91 points over Scott Dixon ahead of the season finale at Laguna Seca.
Felix Rosenqvist was second, 5.4 seconds behind Palou in this morning’s Grand Prix of Portland, benefitting from a late Safety Car to move ahead of Dixon, who was forced to settle for third.
Scott McLaughlin, who started on the front row, came home ninth, while Marcus Armstrong was let down by a rare pitlane error from the Chip Ganassi team while running deep in the top ten to fall down the order and finish 19th.
Tom Blomqvist came home 24th in just his third IndyCar start.
Pole-sitter Graham Rahal led the field to green on alternate tyres, with McLaughlin behind on the same strategy. Palou quickly moved to third from fifth on the grid, while his title rival Dixon dropped down to fifth following contact with the rear of Colton Herta, which cost both time.
The first caution came on Lap 3 when Will Power spun on the grass while attempting a move on Alexander Rossi at Turn 4.
Rahal led McLaughlin and Palou off the restart, the latter running on the harder primary tyres, as were Herta and Dixon behind.
McLaughlin came in for his first stop on Lap 22, with Rahal following a lap later, promoting Palou to the lead over Dixon. Following their stops, the earlier leaders would both bleed time in traffic, handing the advantage to those ahead who had started on the more durable tyres.
Having built a five-second lead, Palou made his first stop on Lap 32, with Dixon doing the same the following circuit. Once all stops had been made, Palou retained the lead with a six-second advantage over Dixon. Rosenqvist jumped to third, ahead of Patricio O’Ward, Rahal and McLaughlin.
Dixon would eat into Palou’s lead through the mid-stages, forcing the leader to stop again on Lap 49. Rosenqvist also bridged the gap to Dixon, who led eight laps before boxing at the end of Lap 58. Once Rosenqvist came in for his second stop, Palou’s lead over Dixon extended to 10 seconds.
That advantage remained following the final round of stops; however, staying out later favoured Rosenqvist, who benefitted from a late Safety Car with 27 laps remaining.
Agustin Canapiro was the cause of the caution, spinning at Turn 10 and stranding in the grass. Race officials delayed calling for the intervention, which allowed Rosenqvist to come in before the yellow flag and jump Dixon, much to the Kiwi’s displeasure.
Palou pulled clear of Rosenqvist off the final restart to storm to victory, while Dixon kept O’Ward at bay in lapped traffic to finish on the podium for the third consecutive race.
Armstrong, who had worked his way to seventh ahead of his final stop, lost over 30 seconds when CGR sent him on his way with only three wheels attached. He would finish 19th.
“It was a good day up until we had that moment toward the end,” Armstrong said following the race. “We had a good first stint going long on the reds. The car was very balanced, and that made it easier to extend the stint. From there, we had good pace on the blacks, as well. I thought the No. 11 Ridgeline Lubricants Honda was very good. We were in a good spot running P7 mostly, but an unfortunate ending.”
Dixon’s podium means he is guaranteed to finish runner-up in the series, but the battle for third is tight, with Josef Newgarden, O’Ward and McLaughlin separated by just 22 points.
“We had a pretty good run, and then we kind of got caught up in traffic,” said the six-time champion. “First of all, huge congrats to the No. 10 team on winning the championship. We tried the red ones there, but then they left the car there, waited for the leaders to pit, and it cycled out. It is what it is. I think we had a good second-place car and perhaps the pace of Alex, but congratulations to them.”
The 2023 IndyCar season finale takes place at Laguna Seca next weekend.