Alex Palou

Note: The Penske Entertainment editorial staff is looking back at the 10 biggest moments of 2023 in the NTT INDYCAR SERIES in this year-end series, with one installment appearing on the site per day in countdown fashion from Dec. 22-31.

The 2023 NTT INDYCAR SERIES season was the year of Chip Ganassi Racing.

For the first time in team history, CGR produced a 1-2 finish in the NTT INDYCAR SERIES championship, with Alex Palou and Scott Dixon, and won Rookie of the Year honors with Marcus Armstrong despite Armstrong not competing in the five oval events.

The dream season was capped by Palou, who sealed the title at Portland International Raceway and became the first INDYCAR SERIES driver to clinch the championship with at least a race to spare since Sebastien Bourdais claimed Champ Car honors in 2007 in the penultimate race. This was Palou’s second title in three seasons, joining his 2021 crown.

Palou’s 2023 season began with finishes of eighth (St. Petersburg), third (Texas), fifth (Long Beach) and fifth again (Barber). He was third in points entering the Month of May.

May was the moment when this championship was won.

The Spaniard kickstarted the Month of May by leading 52 of 85 laps in his GMR Grand Prix win. Eight days later, he won the NTT P1 Award for the 107th Indianapolis 500 presented by Gainbridge with the fastest four-lap average ever for a pole sitter (234.217 mph). A week after that, in a race that he was hit on pit road by Rinus VeeKay, Palou rebounded to climb from 28th after that incident early in the race to finish fourth.

He would go from nine points down entering the Month of May to 20 points up leaving it.

Palou then won the next three rounds (Detroit, Road America, Mid-Ohio) to open an insurmountable 110-point lead over second-place Dixon leaving the annual Fourth of July weekend stop at the rural Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course.

Dixon tried to make a fight of it during the second half of the season. He extended his record streak of most consecutive seasons with at least one trip to victory lane to 19 via a win in the Gallagher Grand Prix on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course in August. Dixon has won at least one race every year since 2005.

Six-time series champion Dixon won three of the final four races, all in captivating fashion. From overcoming an opening-lap incident in both the Gallagher Grand Prix and the season finale at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca, to making one less pit stop than everyone else at World Wide Technology Raceway, Dixon was a terror during the closing stage of the season.

Even with Josef Newgarden and Dixon combining to win five of the final seven races, Palou staved off their charge.

Palou came into the clinching race weekend at Portland 74 points up on the field. That was the largest margin since 2008. The average margin with two races to go during that span had been 24.3.

Only 15 times has a driver won the title under age 27. Palou has done it twice, as he was 24 in 2021.

“As Chip calls it, you’re either a Sunday driver or you’re not,” said four-time series champion Dario Franchitti, who serves as advisor for Chip Ganassi Racing. “I think with Alex we have a Sunday driver.”