Don’t let the headline fool you; Alex Palou’s win at the Grand Prix of Portland was no easy jaunt from green to checkered flag. After having to take evasive action to make it through the first corner, Palou was left to fight his way up through a competitive field where truly anything could have happened to take victory.
The start of the 110-lap race was something of a disaster. Polesitter Alex Palou had a great start, with third-place Scott Dixon following behind. However, Felix Rosenqvist flew up behind them too quickly, making contact with Dixon, who ran wide inside of Palou. Rosenqvist missed the corner, and Dixon and Palou also did after the collision. Alexander Rossi, close behind them, followed. Other drivers — Helio Castroneves, Romain Grosjean, James Hinchcliffe, Oliver Askew, and Will Power — also ran wide.
The restart order was also a bit of a disaster, with IndyCar providing three tiers of priority. First priority were those who took the racing line. Second priority were those who took the overshoot but got back on the track. Final priority went to those who spun or went off. It took several laps to figure out the prospective running order, with Pato O’Ward of Arrow McLaren SP ultimately taking the lead at the restart, followed by Graham Rahal, Ed Jones, Marcus Ericsson, and Sebastien Bourdais.
O’Ward jumped out a quick lead on lap 11, developing a solid gap right at the start. It was much calmer this time around, with the field spreading out quickly.
Think shook up on lap 29 when O’Ward pitted, leaving Rahal in the lead. Rahal ultimately pitted five laps later, though O’Ward struggled to make his new tires work, leaving Rahal to cycle out ahead.
On lap 52, Dalton Kellett’s car stopped on the track, and several drivers dipped into the pits early to attempt to beat the safety car. Rahal had filtered back into the lead for the restart on lap 57. Rossi passed Dixon and Newgarden, both of whom were already battling for position. O’Ward, who looked well set up to take advantage of the restart, dropped back to 15th after trying to make laps in the wrong fuel mode.
Rahal pulled into the pits for fuel on lap 75, followed by Ed Jones in second place.
On lap 86, Simon Pagenaud spun coming out of the pits after Power tapped his front wing, then proceeded to stall the car, causing the yellow flag to be waved. The restart on lap 90 saw Oliver Askew spin and stall, bringing out another yellow.
Palou had filtered to the front for both restarts, followed by Rossi, Dixon, and Harvey. In both cases, the Spanish driver got a big jump to assert his position as leader.
That was the positions in which the top drivers finished. It would be a massively important win for Palou, who ascended to the top of the championship standings with a stunning win.