IndyCar: Why Alex Palou’s dominance feels much different

Alex Palou, Chip Ganassi Racing, IndyCar (Photo Credit: Mansfield News Journal)
Alex Palou, Chip Ganassi Racing, IndyCar (Photo Credit: Mansfield News Journal) /

Alex Palou continued his dominance at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course, extending his lead in the IndyCar championship standings to 110 points.

Chip Ganassi Racing’s Alex Palou earned his third consecutive IndyCar victory two Sundays ago at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course. The win was his fourth in the last five races, and it marked the fifth time in the last six on-track, points-paying weekends during which he finished P1, if you include Indy 500 qualifying.

The only non-win for the 2021 series champion during this six-weekend stretch was the Indy 500 itself, when a pit lane collision knocked him from the lead pack to 30th place. He still rallied to finish in fourth.

Palou’s three-race win streak is certainly not a first in IndyCar, not even in the modern era. Since the introduction of the DW12 chassis in 2012, IndyCar had seen a total of six three-race winning streaks entering 2023, the most recent of which belonging to Scott Dixon in 2020. Palou’s is the seventh in 12 years.

So why does Alex Palou’s IndyCar hot streak feel so much different?

On five of those six occasions, the driver who recorded the streak went on to win the championship. The only reason it didn’t happen on the other occasion is because two drivers went on three-race winning streaks in the DW12’s debut season. Will Power finished runner-up in the championship behind Ryan Hunter-Reay that year.

The other three three-race winning streaks during this stretch are Scott Dixon’s run in 2013, Power’s run from the end of 2013 to the start of 2014, and Simon Pagenaud’s run in 2016.

Of those six streaks, only Pagenaud was already leading the championship when his streak began, and his streak only started three races into the season. The 2016 title battle still came down to the season finale, despite the fact that runner-up Power missed the season opener with a concussion.

Power was in seventh place in the standings when his streak began in 2012. Hunter-Reay was in seventh in the standings when his streak began later in the year. Neither driver had won during the season before their streaks began.

Dixon was also in seventh place in the standings when his streak began in 2013, and it took him until the season’s 11th race before he finally won that year. Power was in seventh when his streak began in the penultimate race of 2013, and while he wasn’t in the 2013 championship hunt, he went on to win the 2014 title.

Power’s first win of 2013 came in race 16 of 19, so he technically did have a win to his name when his streak began, but not in his title-winning season.

Despite leading the standings when his streak began, Pagenaud also hadn’t won a race yet in 2016 before his run began. Dixon’s 2020 streak was a bit of an anomaly, since it began when the season started, so nobody was the points leader, nor had they already won, at the time.

Palou’s 110-point lead certainly isn’t the largest we’ve seen in recent years. Dixon led by 117 points eight races into the 2020 season, though the championship battle still came down to the wire. Pagenaud won the 2016 title by 127 points, but that was because the season finale was a double points race which he won.

But Alex Palou is the only driver during this span who led the IndyCar standings and had already won a race when his three-race winning streak began.

Palou’s first win of the season came at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course back in mid-May. His three-race win streak consists of wins on the streets of Detroit, Michigan and at Road America and Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course.

With eight races remaining on this year’s schedule, Palou is one win shy of matching the highest single-season win total since Power won six races in 2011. He has not finished lower than eighth place this season, and he is currently riding a streak of eight straight top five finishes.

Power said it best after the race on the streets of Detroit. Second place finishes are nice, but not when you’re finishing behind the driver you need to beat. So the fact that Palou hasn’t had a bad points day, even when he hasn’t won this year, only adds to his strength as he pursues a second championship in three years.

A four-race winning streak has never happened in IndyCar, which dates back to the 1996 Indy Racing League season.

It most recently happened at the top level of American open-wheel racing in the 2006 Champ Car season, when Sebastien Bourdais opened up the season with four straight victories. Palou is set to try to change that on the streets of Toronto, Ontario at Exhibition Place on Sunday, July 16.

Toronto is the site of the race which immediately followed his contract drama last summer, at which point there was speculation that he might not even compete. He went on to finish in sixth place in his first ever race at the track.

No championship has been clinched before the season finale since Dan Wheldon won the 2005 title. Palou could very well change that. He can currently afford to miss the next two races and still guarantee himself the points lead.

Next. All-time IndyCar wins list. dark

The Honda Indy Toronto is the only race on the 2023 IndyCar schedule which is a Peacock exclusive, meaning that fans will need to sign up for Peacock Premium or Peacock Premium Plus to watch live starting at 1:30 p.m. ET on Sunday, July 16.