Palou Dominates Thermal Sprint for the Purse, Pockets $500,000

In a race of varying strategies, pure speed paid off for Alex Palou with a lucrative victory Sunday in the Sprint for the Purse at The Thermal Club $1 Million Challenge.

Reigning NTT INDYCAR SERIES champion Palou earned $500,000 for the victory in the non-points exhibition event at The Thermal Club, a private motorsports club near Palm Springs, California. Palou led all 20 laps of the Sprint for the Purse from the pole, driving his No. 10 DHL Chip Ganassi Racing Honda to a 5.7929-second victory over the No. 3 XPEL Team Penske Chevrolet of Scott McLaughlin, who earned $350,000 for his runner-up finish.

SEE: Race Results | Heat 1 Results | Heat 2 Results

“The car was amazing,” Palou said. “I was a bit surprised how the competitors did the first 10 laps, saving tires. I was like: ‘All right, that’s our game. I like it.’ Super proud of the 10 car and everyone at Chip Ganassi Racing.”

Felix Rosenqvist rounded out the podium finishers in the No. 60 AutoNation/SiriusXM Honda fielded by Meyer Shank Racing, earning $250,000. Rosenqvist and Palou each won heat races earlier today that trimmed the 27-car field to 12 drivers for the Sprint for the Purse on the 17-turn, 3.067-mile circuit at the base of the Santa Rosa Mountains.

Colton Herta placed fourth and earned $100,000 in the No. 26 Gainbridge Honda fielded by Andretti Global after deliberately finishing more than 90 seconds behind Palou in the first 10-lap segment of the Sprint for the Purse to save his Firestone Firehawk tires. Tire changes were not allowed during the break between 10-lap segments, and Herta and about half of the field in the 12-car feature opted for a slower, tire-saving strategy in the opening 10 laps on the abrasive circuit.

“I think our strategy worked,” Herta said. “We were talking about it on pure pace, maybe we can move up six spots at most. If we get a little lucky and cars have some problems, but if we save the tires, we might get a little more. Obviously, the tire advantage was pretty big, so we were able to pick off everybody on the way up there.”

Marcus Armstrong rounded out the top five in the No. 11 Ridgeline Lubricants Chip Ganassi Racing Honda, as CGR was the only team with two drivers in the top five. Armstrong earned $50,000.

Palou never was challenged in either of the two segments, jumping away from the field on the start on Lap 1 and restart on Lap 11. Tire wear didn’t appear to slow his pace at any point, as he inexorably drove away from McLaughlin lap by lap.

The cruise to the checkered maybe gave new father Palou time to think how he would spend his $500,000 payday.

“I need to buy a lot of diapers,” Palou said. “I’ll probably do that and probably do some small party with the boys (Ganassi crew).”

The most intense action in the final 10-lap segment came courtesy of Herta and Alexander Rossi.

Herta used his fresher tires to pick off drivers one by one as the laps counted down, while also carefully managing the 40 seconds of push to pass each driver was allotted. Herta dove under Linus Lundqvist’s No. 8 American Legion Chip Ganassi Racing Honda for fifth on Lap 12 and then passed Armstrong for fourth with three laps to go after a stirring duel.

Rossi also saved tires in the first stint in his No. 7 Arrow McLaren Chevrolet and was in full aggression mode from the drop of the green flag on the Lap 11 restart after the halftime break.

2016 Indianapolis 500 winner Rossi climbed to sixth on Lap 11, and he and two-time series champion Josef Newgarden engaged in a spirited, side-by-side duel with contact for fifth place on Lap 12. Both drivers went wide in a corner while racing for fifth place, allowing Lundqvist and Herta to slip by for fifth and sixth place, respectively.

Rossi finally completed the pass of Newgarden later in the lap for seventh place. But Rossi used plenty of push-to-pass and tire rubber during those side-by-side jousts, and he ended up seventh at the finish.

The next NTT INDYCAR SERIES race is the iconic Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach, a points-paying event Sunday, April 21 on the streets of Long Beach, California.

NTT IndyCar Series PR