Newgarden says Palou is Dixon-esque, Dixon says he raises the bar

Former champions Scott Dixon and Josef Newgarden have praised 2021 IndyCar champion Alex Palou for being the most complete of the young drivers in the series.

Newgarden and Dixon started from the front row of the 46th Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach but were beaten to victory lane by Colton Herta, and claimed second and fourth in the final points standings.

Team Penske-Chevrolet’s Newgarden, who won the 2017 and ’19 championships, said Palou “did an amazing job all year with the championship, so he should be very proud with his group. We'll congratulate them and come back next year and try to do one better…

“I think he's done a good job about maximizing his opportunity, right? Coming up, we all dream of having that type of team around you. Certainly within your second year, that's a dream opportunity. So he's certainly got all the resources and people around him to make it happen.

“And he's done the job, clearly. He's been solid all year. Been well within the fight. I said earlier in the year I think from the young crop of drivers he looks the most complete. Maybe that's just because he has a couple more years on a lot of the other younger guys.

“He's definitely been very complete all year. Seems to be very Dixon-esque in a lot of ways. Scott has been sort of the measure over the last couple of decades of how you be a champion. Alex seems to embody that pretty well.

“He could have a very good run over the course of his career. We don't know. We'll see. I'm sure he'll have a lot of time to stick around and see what he can do.”

Six-time champion Dixon, who described his race to third today as “blah”, said it was good “to see the stress off of Alex at the end there. Of course he was smiling, he's always smiling, so that wasn't a change. But just to see I think everybody on the #10 car side have that relief of capturing the championship is very special. So big off-season for everybody at Ganassi to be very happy about.”

Dixon was also unstinting in his praise of Palou as a teammate and referred to him as “veteran-like” in his handling of a championship challenge.

“The progression was strong from the get-go,” said the 40-year-old New Zealander. “I think he definitely took a lot in with the previous season at [Dale Coyne Racing]. Michael Cannon [now Dixon’s race engineer] and a few of the engineers that have known Alex from the previous year knew he was quick. Out of the shortlist of drivers that had the possibility of filling that seat, he was the guy I said, “You’ve got to go for”.

“His progression has been, again, veteran-like, which has been really interesting. He definitely asks a lot of questions. He's not shy to ask questions. But he processes it very well. I think as we've seen throughout the season, the kind of lows that they've had maybe – not many lows – but the way that they've reacted to it as a group. He's had a lot of help obviously from the whole group of Ganassi, especially on the engineering side, but then also with Dario [Franchitti] and with the other drivers.

“He soaks it up and he processes it very well. The progression has been quick and fast. I think his natural talent, that's the biggest thing you look for, right? It's the easiest. The speed is what you need most. Sometimes you need to contain that and make sure it turns into results and not crashes. He does that very well… If it was a new track or a track he didn't know that well, he would methodically go through it from session to session. That was definitely very impressive.”

Dixon also said Palou’s title triumph will have a galvanizing effect at Ganassi.

“Honestly, it's great for the team. Obviously it has raised the bar, but I think it's raised the bar for all of us this year to keep pushing. It definitely feels like kind of the 2009 through sort of '12, '13 period with Dario, which is great…

“I’m excited for team morale, that's the big thing. Obviously when you get beat, when it's not just the drivers but the crews as well, it pushes everybody a lot harder. Hopefully we can come out of the gate very strong.

“Super proud of what the #10 car has done. Super proud of Alex. Man, he's done a tremendous job this year.”

 

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