In September, Alex Palou claimed his second NTT IndyCar Series championship at Portland International Raceway. At the season’s end one week later, other teams and drivers packed up and headed home to their shops, with a reflective eye on the concluding season and hope for next year. Would fortune improve for the various competitors in the paddock after the mid-summer hammering that Palou put on the field? Some drivers and, in one special case, a sponsor, ended the year feeling good.
With this in mind, let’s examine some of the aspects of the series that are riding high heading into the final stretch of down time before the Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg goes green on March 10.
The newly-crowned two-time champion has the best seat in the paddock and is on a roll. Examining his 2021 and 2023 championship seasons, the Spaniard has amassed eight total wins, 18 podiums and 516 laps led. At the Indianapolis 500 in 2021, he garnered a second place-result, losing out to four-time winner Helio Castroneves, and last year a hard-fought fourth after Rinus Veekay hit him in the pits.
These great results are even more remarkable when juxtaposed against his legal issues concerning his contract decisions. Now that he has officially tied his future to Chip Ganassi Racing, he can continue adding to his legacy, which is already rivaling the careers of Will Power, Michael Andretti, and current paddock benchmark, Scott Dixon. Even with his recent success, fingers crossed that NBC doesn’t try to leverage all his previous courtroom escapades into an IndyCar themed Law and Order spin-off.
When Ryan Hunter-Reay found a home at Andretti Global in 2010, winning in his fourth start with the team, there were doubts his program could continue beyond the end of the year. But then DHL signed on in 2011, and the yellow No. 28 debuted at the Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg, finishing 21st. Later in the year, the sponsor got their first win in the series at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in Loudon, adding 11 more through 2015. A two-year winless drought ensued, before Hunter-Reay nabbed his last two checkered flags in 2018.
That was also DHL’s last visit to victory lane. After RHR was replaced with Romain Grosjean, the expectation was that the long-time sponsor would end up in the winner’s circle again, but mishaps and close calls were all that resulted. Now DHL is hopping off the Andretti train and joining another Honda…