It’s always a good sign when your rookie season sees you promoted to the championship-winning team the following year. And that’s exactly what happened to Alex Palou, one of IndyCar’s shining rookies of the 2020 season. He may not have secured Rookie of the Year, but he got something even better: a move to Chip Ganassi Racing, where his teammates will be six-time champion Scott Dixon, 2020 IndyCar rookie Jimmie Johnson, and former Formula One driver Marcus Ericsson.
“To say I’m thrilled or excited to be making this step in my career would be an understatement,” Palou said in a press release, continuing:
Driving for Chip Ganassi is just a dream come true. I’ve followed the team for as long as I can remember, and it’s the kind of team and owner any driver would want to race for. Scott has had another tremendous season, reaching 50 wins and a sixth title, so you absolutely couldn’t ask for anything more in a teammate. I can’t wait to work with Marcus and Jimmie as well, and to start contributing to the team and getting to spend more time with everyone.
Palou finished 16th overall in the IndyCar standings, two positions lower than ROTY winner Rinus Veekay. He was close, but ultimately one podium and three top-10 finishes weren’t enough to take the honors. That said, he had a lot of promising drives that weren’t always reflected in his results, including three DNFs that undoubtedly knocked him down in the standings.
But overall, that’s not a bad record for a driver who had never competed on an oval before his IndyCar debut at Texas Motor Speedway. And, with the COVID-19 pandemic restrictions, he rarely had a chance to even see the tracks or put in a few practice laps before he was asked to qualify.
“Alex has that spark, that intangible thing you combine with talent that is a lot of fun,” CGR managing director Mike Hull said of Palou. “It’s a great exploration thing, actually. You’re exploring how far you can go, and he has one year of experience with a quality team, quality engineering and a quality teammate. He stood up to that test extremely well.”
Right now, it sounds like Chip Ganassi Racing is going from a three-car team to a four-car team. With Palou filling the No. 10 seat vacated by Felix Rosenqvist, he’ll join up with Dixon, Johnson, and Ericsson. The last time CGR had a four-car team was in 2017 before halving its entrants for the following year.