Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama ft. Jimmie Johnson, Zak Brown, and Alex Palou
The 2021 NTT INDYCAR SERIES season is underway after a spectacular debut weekend for a new driver at Chip Ganassi Racing.
Alex Palou of Spain became just the third driver to score an IndyCar win in his Chip Ganassi Racing debut when the 24-year-old from Sant Antoni de Vilamajor, Spain led 56 of the 90 laps in the race to win Sunday’s Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama at Barber Motorsports Park.
The other two drivers to win in their CGR IndyCar debut were Michael Andretti in 1994 and Dan Wheldon in 2006.
Last year, America got to know Alex Palou when the then-rookie driver from Spain had an impressive season with Dale Coyne Racing with Team Goh. It certainly impressed team owner Chip Ganassi, who hired Palou to replace Felix Rosenqvist in the No. 10 NTT DATA Honda.
In the first race of the 2021 NTT IndyCar Series season, Palou got to know Victory Lane.
This was a race where so much attention was placed on a first-time driver for Chip Ganassi Racing. But instead of seven-time NASCAR Cup Series champion Jimmie Johnson in the No. 48, it was Palou in the No. 10.
He defeated a charging Will Power by 0.4016 seconds. Palou was able to use a consistent driving style to keep Power at bay, as the Team Penske driver had nearly half of his 200 seconds of push-to-pass to use in the final 10 laps.
Because Power was able to hit the push to pass button, he tightened the gap to just 1.2300 seconds to the leader as they raced around the picturesque road course outside of Birmingham, Alabama.
Palou was able to fend off the pressure and stay 1.8311 seconds ahead of Power’s Chevrolet beginning the final lap.
He drove to the first checkered flag of his career as he scored his first NTT INDYCAR SERIES victory. Palou was one of three Chip Ganassi Racing drivers in the top eight. Six-time NTT INDYCAR SERIES champion Scott Dixon was third and Sweden’s Marcus Ericsson was eighth.
Pit Pass Indy caught up with Palou Friday at Barber Motorsports Park to talk to the popular Spaniard about joining one of the elite teams in INDYCAR.
The featured interview for this week’s episode, however, is Jimmie Johnson. The seven-time NASCAR Cup Series champion is the first to admit he has a lot to learn and a long time to get there as he switches gears from a legendary career in NASCAR to an IndyCar rookie.
Although he struggled with the results over the weekend, he kept the expectations low.
He qualified 21st in the 24-car field, avoided a first-lap crash that was triggered when Team Penske driver Josef Newgarden spun, and was able to finish the race 19th, three laps down.
Pit Pass Indy had a lengthy interview with Johnson a few weeks ago and he talks about the reason he parked his Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet in NASCAR to begin a new career in the No. 48 Carvana Chip Ganassi Racing Honda in the NTT INDYCAR SERIES.
Finally, Pit Pass Indy caught up with McLaren CEO Zak Brown, who skipped this past weekend’s Formula One race in Imola, Italy to support his IndyCar effort at Arrow McLaren SP, that includes Pato O’Ward of Mexico and Felix Rosenqvist of Sweden. O’Ward won the pole and was one of the leading contenders in the race.
All of that, and more, on this week’s edition of Pit Pass Indy.
In the world of racing, "Penske" means performance ... and winning. For good reason. Since 1966, Team Penske has won 43 national championships, 17 IndyCar alone. Those are results that are tough to top.