Alex Palou Dominates IndyCar's Thermal $1 Million Challenge

alex palou victory lane
Alex Palou Dominates IndyCar's Thermal Challenge NTT IndyCar Series

Two-time defending champion Alex Palou won IndyCar’s Thermal Challenge. The non-points paying event was broken into two heats and a 20-mile sprint race cut in half for a 10-minute halftime where crews had limited access to their car.

This All-Star race-esque event was announced last year after the series ran a “Spring Training” practice before the season began. The Thermal Club is a car racing enthusiast’s version of a "Country Club" located in Thermal, Calif., with the 18 holes of golf replaced with 26 turns of racing.

IndyCar utilized the Twin Palms layout at the property, a 19-turn, 3.067-mile layout that included sweepers, tight corners, long straightaways, and elevation changes.

The event was marketed as an exhibition race whose primary focus was to promote the broadcast and racing for the private club members and limited outside fans.

The Sprint For the Purse race winner would collect the million-dollar prize in the one-off event. The field was set with the top six Heat 1 and Heat 2 finishers.

Felix Rosenqvist won the first heat, and Colton Herta claimed the final transfer spot.

In the second heat, Alex Palou won, and two of the Arrow McLarens battled at the cut-off line, with Alexander Rossi advancing to the feature ahead of Pato O’Ward.

In the first half of the Sprint, knowing that they could not replace their tires, Herta took the risk of slowing down and finishing near the back of the 12-car field to conserve his tires as much as possible. This strategy had racers intentionally slowing down, knowing they were setting up for a final shootout.

At the halfway point, IndyCar informed Pietro Fittipaldi and Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing that they had been disqualified for failing to follow IndyCar instructions. The team did not fill the gas tank entirely for the race’s first half against IndyCar’s regulations for this event. Fittipaldi was instructed to hop out of the car and not return.

This was the second RLL car to retire from the race after Graham Rahal suffered mechanical issues with two laps remaining in the opening half.

While Palou is most focused on winning a championship, he said in his victory lane interview that the cash prize would go towards diapers as the IndyCar Champion and his wife Lucia welcomed their first daughter last December.

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