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Alex Palou Dominates $1 Million Challenge At The Thermal Club

THERMAL, Calif. - After a championship-winning season in 2023, it felt like only a matter of time until Alex Palou would capture his maiden win of the 2024 NTT IndyCar Series season as the two-time champion left The Thermal Club $500,000 richer after winning the $1 Million Challenge.


The No. 10 Ridgeline Lubricants Honda showed a strong pace all weekend, topping the charts Friday afternoon, qualifying on pole position for the second heat and running at the sharp end of the field for all 20 laps of the main event. 


"Amazing to get the win, to get the money," Palou said. "It’s what we needed."


Despite leading every lap in both Heat 2 and the main event, the Spaniard made it clear that it was not smooth sailing from inside the cockpit.


"(The weekend) felt like it flowed," Palou said. "It's never easy. It felt really easy on Day 1 of testing. Then, if you look at Practice 4, we were one second off. I used my push-to-pass. We were a bit of like, ‘Oh, what's going on?’ We had to work pretty hard."


Scott McLaughlin’s No. 3 XPEL Chevrolet finished in the runner-up position and he was also the top Chevrolet driver. In doing so, the Team Penske driver left California with an extra $350,000 for himself and the team.


"I got a decent start, but couldn’t get close enough to make a move," McLaughlin said. "It is what it is, but I was proud of the day. I thought we maximized what we could. We’re happy."


One of the biggest dark horses of the weekend was Meyer Shank Racing’s Felix Rosenqvist, who maintained his front-running pace from season-opening Firestone Grand Prix on the streets of St. Petersburg. The No. 60 AutoNation/SiriusXM Honda started from pole in Group 1 and ended the day rounding out the podium in third, collecting $250,000 in the process.


"I’m super happy we were able to have this week because it’s kind of been a mix of a race and a test for us, just trying different things, getting to know each other more," Rosenqvist said.


From joining the IndyCar Series in 2019 with Chip Ganassi Racing, to a three-year tenure with Arrow McLaren, the Swede appears to be getting off to a comfortable, fast start with his new MSR team.


"We’ve been quick, but I feel like every time we’re out there, we’re just learning something new…also some cash at the end of the day," Rosenqvist said. "Super proud of Meyer Shank Racing. We’re enjoying it. We think there’s more to come."


Outside The Podium

Carnage in Heat 1 had three major names out of the picture by the first corner. Scott Dixon went late on the brakes into Turn 1, making contact with Romain Grosjean, sending the No. 77 Juncos Hollinger Racing Chevrolet tail-first into the field.


All but Rinus Veekay successfully avoided the spinning Grosjean as the two drivers brought out the day’s only caution. Dixon was given a drive-through penalty because of his role in the incident and did not advance to the main event.

Alexander Rossi ended the day fastest of the three Arrow Mclaren drivers. He was also the only one to make The Thermal Club's $1 Million Challenge, with Pato O’Ward and Callum Ilott missing out. Rossi brought the No. 7 Chevrolet across the line in seventh.


Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing was the only team to have all of their drivers reach the $1 Million Challenge. However, all three RLL drivers ran into bad luck during the main event. Mechanical gremlins kept Graham Rahal’s No. 15 Fifth Third Bank Honda from rejoining the field in the second half of the 20-lap main event.


Pietro Fittipaldi suffered the same fate as race control prevented him from rejoining after failing to start the race with a full fuel tank. Christian Lundgaard was the only RLL driver to see the checkered flag. However, emergency services during halftime penalized the Dane and sent him to the back of the field. He brought the No. 45 Hy-Vee Honda home in ninth.


The next points-paying race for the NTT IndyCar Series will take place on Sunday, April 21. Coverage of the Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach will begin at 3 p.m. ET on USA Network.

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