IndyCar change made that should have been made weeks ago

It took a dominant effort at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course, but two-time and reigning IndyCar champion Alex Palou is finally the championship favorite.
Alex Palou, Chip Ganassi Racing, IndyCar
Alex Palou, Chip Ganassi Racing, IndyCar / Jef Richards/For IndyStar / USA TODAY

Chip Ganassi Racing's Alex Palou scored his first official win of the 2024 IndyCar season exactly where he scored his first win to kick off his 2023 championship run, dominating the second half of the race at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course ahead of the Indy 500 at the track's oval later this month.

Including the Thermal Club exhibition race in March, the driver of the No. 10 Honda has now earned seven victories in the last calendar year in a series widely considered to be the world's most competitive from top to bottom.

Palou became the first driver to clinch a championship before the season finale since 2007 last year, and he became the first five-win champion since 2016. Additionally, he finished no lower than eighth place in 17 races, something that no driver had done since 1922.

The 27-year-old Spaniard has now reeled off a whopping 23 straight top eight finishes, including four (five including Thermal) top five efforts to start the 2024 season.

And now Alex Palou is finally once again the favorite to win the 2024 IndyCar championship.

Palou began the season as the favorite at DraftKings Sportsbook, which listed the two-time and reigning champion at +350, ahead of Team Penske's Josef Newgarden at +450. No driver has won back-to-back championships since Dario Franchitti won three in a row from 2009 to 2011.

After Newgarden dominated the season opener on the streets of St. Petersburg, Florida, his odds shortened all the way to +200. He was still the points leader after the following race on the streets of Long Beach, California, and his odds only moved to +220 after his St. Petersburg win was stripped via disqualification and he fell outside of the top 10 in the point standings.

Even after a rough weekend at Barber Motorsports Park, where he is a three-time winner, dropped him further down the point standings, he retained his status as the favorite at +250, ahead of Palou at +280.

Now Palou is finally the favorite again at +160 after taking over the points lead at the Indianapolis road course, where Newgarden placed a disappointing 17th to fall to 17th in the standings, 91 points out of the lead. Newgarden is surprisingly still listed second at +400.

Since the end of the St. Petersburg race, Newgarden has gained a net total of seven points, the equivalent of a single 23rd place finish.

Full odds can be found here.

Can anybody stop Alex Palou?

If you got in on Palou's odds at any point before now, good for you value-wise, because it's appalling that it took this long for him to become the favorite.

I get the fact that seven of the season's remaining 13 races are oval races, and five of the six most recent oval races have been won by Newgarden. But the driver of the No. 2 Chevrolet is now 91 points out of the championship lead, and he trails drivers from eight of the sport's 10 teams.

There is certainly a long way to go, and let's not forget that the 33-year-old Henderson, Tennessee native entered last year's Indy 500 on a cold streak as well. Now he enters Indy 500 practice week as the reigning winner of the "Greatest Spectacle in Racing".

But even a quick doubleheader sweep or two at Iowa Speedway or the Milwaukee Mile, where he should be a prohibitive favorite given the fact that he has been on another planet at short tracks in particular, probably won't be enough to make a huge dent in that gap, as long as Palou's "bad" days still result in P4 and P5 finishes.

Let's not forget that Palou won at four of the tracks remaining on this year's schedule as well last year. He also hasn't finished outside of the top 10 at any track he hasn't won at since July 2022, two months prior to his most recent finish outside of the top eight of any kind.

Odds refresh periodically and are subject to change.

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Indy 500 qualifying, which saw Palou take the pole with the all-time record pole speed last May, is scheduled to take place on Saturday, May 18 and Sunday, May 19. The race itself is set to be broadcast live on NBC from Indianapolis Motor Speedway beginning at 11:00 a.m. ET on Sunday, May 26.