Alex Palou, of the 2018 Winter Olympics in South Korea, took his first career pole ahead of his Portland debut.
The Portland Trail Blazers recorded a victory over the Los Angeles Lakers on Wednesday night, with Alex Palou taking his first career pole ahead of his Portland debut.
PORTLAND, Ore. (KPTV) – At Portland International Raceway, Alex Palou won his first pole of his IndyCar career, putting him in position to regain the championship lead on Sunday.
Palou had the fastest qualifying time of 58.7701 seconds on the 1.964-mile, 12-turn permanent road circuit constructed in 1960. The Spaniard has only been at the Portland circuit once before, for a test session last month after the race was canceled due to pandemic rescheduling last season.
But he claimed he fell in love with the track right away and spent IndyCar’s three-week vacation in Portland prepping for this crucial championship race on the simulator.
Palou told The Associated Press after his qualifying lap, “We’ve been working hard, trying to make this happen.” “We’ve been very competitive in qualifying all year, but we never had that last lap time we required for a pole, and we finally got it today, and I’m just super pleased to check that box off.”
More importantly, Palou’s main rivals for the championship will all begin competing after him on Sunday. Palou received one point for earning the pole, cutting his lead over Pato O’Ward to only nine points heading into the 110-lap race.
“[Sunday] is the most important day. I’m ecstatic and proud of what we accomplished, but we must work hard to maintain our position “Palou said. “It’s a terrific start to be in the lead, and hopefully the momentum will last until the conclusion of the season. We’ll make it.”
Palou had an engine problem on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road circuit and was collected in a collision at Gateway outside of St. Louis, thus O’Ward overcame a 48-point disadvantage over two races. Palou had led the points standings after eight of the season’s thirteen races.
After his Arrow McLaren SP teammate Felix Rosenqvist knocked him out of the Fast Six final round of qualifying, O’Ward will start seventh.
“I have to pass the people I’m fighting because they’re in front of me,” O’Ward said.
Andretti Autosport’s Alexander Rossi qualified second, despite the fact that he is not in contention for the title. Scott Dixon, the six-time and defending series champion, finished second, followed by Chip Ganassi Racing teammate Palou in third.
When Dixon was caught in the same accident as Palou at Gateway, he fell from third to fourth in the IndyCar standings, 43 points behind O’Ward. He and Palou are still in the championship battle, with Dixon’s route clear: “We’ve got to win,” the New Zealander stated.
Dixon said he is cheering for his colleagues if he does not win the tournament, and that Palou, 24, has worked hard for his chance at the crown.
“Alex is one of the nicest people you’ll ever meet. I’ve told him he has to [jerk] up a bit more “Dixon said. “It’s been very beneficial to the squad.”
Marcus Ericsson, another Ganassi driver in fifth place and 60 points behind the leaders, qualified 10th.
Josef Newgarden, a two-time IndyCar winner, had the poorest qualifying performance among the championship candidates. He climbed up to third in the standings, 22 points behind O’Ward, thanks to his victory at Gateway, but he didn’t make it out of the first round of Saturday qualifying and will start 18th.
Newgarden stated of his Chevrolet from Team Penske, “We simply didn’t have any pace.” “It wasn’t a particularly terrible lap. It was just insufficient. All we have to do now is figure it out.”
The IndyCar season comes to a close with three races on the West Coast, with the series moving from Portland to California for the road course at Laguna Seca and the season finale on the streets of Long Beach. Last season, all three races were canceled, and Palou, a second-year driver, has little experience on the three circuits that remain.
Meanwhile, O’Ward has raced in Long Beach previously in the IndyCar Series and swept a pair of Indy Lights races at Portland in 2018 to win the feeder series title by winning five of the last seven events.
Because of an electrical problem in Saturday morning practice, Ryan Hunter-Reay was unable to make a qualifying effort in his last three races with Andretti Autosport. In the 27-car field on Sunday, he will start last.
Takuma Sato will start 26th due to a penalty for changing his engine on Saturday morning, while Rinus VeeKay, who turns 21 on Saturday, will drop to 25th due to a penalty for changing his engine after Gateway.
With just three races left in the season, the free-agent market has exploded, with Hunter-Reay aggressively seeking a new ride as he prepares to be replaced by Romain Grosjean next year. When Dale Coyne stated Saturday that he is still attempting to put together a two-car lineup for 2022, he appeared to confirm that Grosjean will be gone following his first season in IndyCar with the team.
Bobby Rahal said he’s considering many drivers for a third Rahal Letterman Lanigan car next season, and Oliver Askew will drive the last three races to gain a feel for the car. In the vehicle, RLL has also employed Santino Ferrucci and Christian Lundgaard. Rahal said he doesn’t know what will happen with Sato next season, the two-time Indianapolis 500 champion who requires Honda’s financial support to complete his contract.
Sato is still in the running for a spot at RLL, but the team will not race four full-time cars next year, according to Rahal. Rahal said that RLL would enter a fourth car in the Indy 500.
Simon Pagenaud said that he would announce his 2022 intentions in a few weeks, implying that he will not be returning to Team Penske next year. Team Penske will reduce to three IndyCar entrants next season if a current driver quits the company — Newgarden, Will Power, and Scott McLaughlin are all under contract — according to Roger Penske.
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