Note: The editorial staff at INDYCAR.com is taking a look back at the 10 biggest moments of 2021 in INDYCAR in this year-end series, with one installment appearing on the site per day in countdown fashion from Dec. 22-31.
It was good for Chip Ganassi Racing when Alex Palou won the first race of the 2021 NTT INDYCAR SERIES season, held at Barber Motorsports Park. The year became better for the team when Scott Dixon won the year’s third race, the front end of the Texas Motor Speedway doubleheader. Then when Marcus Ericsson won the opening race in Detroit, well, the season became historic for the Indianapolis-based organization.
For all of Chip Ganassi’s success as a team owner, he had never had three drivers win a race in the same open-wheel series in one season. The closest to it was 2002, when Kenny Brack and Bruno Junqueira won Champ Car World Series races and Jeff Ward went to Victory Lane in the Indy Racing League.
And that wasn’t the only thing of note as CGR became INDYCAR’s gold standard of 2021.
The six wins by the Honda-powered trio gave the team its highest INDYCAR total since Dario Franchitti and Dixon combined to win six races in 2011. Palou won three times (at Barber, Road America and Portland International Raceway), Ericsson twice (Detroit 1 and Nashville) and Dixon once (Texas).
In placing three drivers in the top six of the final standings, Ganassi did something that only Roger Penske has done in this series since 2005. Palou also gave Ganassi his 14th INDYCAR SERIES championship with his sixth different driver. Dixon finished fourth, with Ericsson sixth.
It’s also worth noting that CGR excelled while also fielding the most-watched car of the season. Jimmie Johnson’s foray into INDYCAR put the No. 48 Honda under a bright spotlight for his 12 road and street course races, and then 2004 INDYCAR SERIES champion Tony Kanaan drove it in four oval-track races, including a 10th-place finish in the Indianapolis 500 presented by Gainbridge.
With Kanaan qualifying in the fifth position for the “500,” Ganassi’s team further showed its 2021 dominance by getting all four of its cars in the Fast Nine Shootout at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Leading the way was Dixon, who won the pole for the fourth time in his career. Palou earned the sixth starting position with Ericsson getting the ninth. Palou then led 35 laps in the race – the day’s second-highest total behind Conor Daly’s 40 – and finished second to Helio Castroneves.
Add it up: It was a remarkable year for CGR and the series’ best team performance of 2021.