How an IndyCar champion became associated with gorillas

Alex Palou, IndyCar (Photo Credit: The Indianapolis Star)
Alex Palou, IndyCar (Photo Credit: The Indianapolis Star) /

2021 IndyCar champion Alex Palou often uses a gorilla emoji on social media. He has even worn a gorilla-inspired helmet. What began this association with the great ape?

Alex Palou burst onto the IndyCar scene in 2021 after Chip Ganassi Racing made what was considered to be a relatively surprising move to sign him after his rookie season with Dale Coyne Racing and Team Goh.

It’s a move that might not have happened at all, had Felix Rosenqvist opted to stick around for at least one more year behind the wheel of the No. 10 Honda, but it’s a move that paid off, with Palou going from relative unknown to IndyCar champion in the matter of about five months.

Throughout the season, he started to embrace a unique identity involving none other than a gorilla. He began using a gorilla emoji often on social media, and he even incorporated a gorilla design on his helmet for a number of races.

What began Alex Palou’s embrace of the gorilla?

On a recent Google Meet call, we had the chance to ask him about it. Ironically, yet not surprisingly, he was using a gorilla icon for his profile picture during the call.

Palou admits he wishes there was a “better story” behind it, but his admiration for the personality and the image of the animal can interestingly be closely tied with how he performs on the race track.

“It started just because I had a normal logo with my initials, AP, and I think that’s what everybody does,” Palou told Beyond the Flag. “I just wanted to have something different. I wanted to have something that would differentiate myself to other people and something that you would recognize on the Google icon! That’s just why I like gorillas.”

Palou is often very calculated and methodical with his approach, but he is still respected — and successful. His 2021 championship came in his first year with Chip Ganassi Racing, and it was his consistency which did the trick.

Factoring in his point totals from each race, even if all three of his wins had been runner-up finishes, he still would have won the title.

But when he needs to be aggressive, he will be. And he’s not afraid to lay a beatdown on the competition, having averaged more than a 23.5-second winning margin in hist most recent two victories.

“I think [the gorilla] is an amazing animal and they can be aggressive when they have to, they can be really calm when they don’t need to,” he concluded. “That’s why!”

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Palou took the pole position for the 107th running of the Indy 500 with a record four-lap average speed of 234.217 miles per hour around the four-turn, 2.5-mile (4.023-kilometer) Indianapolis Motor Speedway oval. The race is set to be broadcast live on NBC beginning at 11:00 a.m. ET on Sunday, May 28. Begin a free trial of FuboTV now and don’t miss it!