Alex Palou Easily Wins IndyCar’s $1 Million Challenge

palou thermal
(Penske Entertainment: James Black)
palou thermal
(Penske Entertainment: James Black)

Alex Palou had a nice Sunday drive.

The Chip Ganassi Racing driver ran away from the field at IndyCar’s $1 Million Challenge exhibition race at The Thermal Club private track, outside Palm Springs, Calif.

The unusual event included two heat races scheduled for 10 laps or 20 minutes, whichever came first, that set a field of 12 drivers for a 20-lap finale.

IndyCar has already held one official points race this season at St. Petersburg, Fla., which was won by Josef Newgarden.


Heat Race 1 at Thermal was marred by a first-lap accident caused by Scott Dixon running into the back of Romain Grosjean, which led to DNFs for Grosjean and Rinus Veekay. The resulting yellow flag period meant that the race only covered eight laps of the three-mile track, with Felix Rosenqvist taking the checkered flag.

Palou won the less eventful Heat Race 2 by more than five seconds ahead of Marcus Armstrong.

The main race was split into two 10-lap halves with a break in between where teams were allowed to refuel and adjust the wings and tire pressure, but not change tires.

Colton Herta started in the last row and sat back to preserve his tires during the first half, while Palou drove away to another commanding lead.

ridgeline honda indycar
(Penske Entertainment: James Black)

The strategy worked to some extent as Herta was able to race his way to fourth place and a $100,000 payday behind Palou, who won $500,000 by beating Scott McLaughlin by nearly six seconds. McLaughlin earned $350,000 for his second-place finish and Rosenqvist took home $250,000 for third. Fifth place Armstrong won $50,000 and the rest of the 27 entrants got checks for $23,000.


The $1 Million Challenge name stemmed from an earlier idea where a member of the club linked to the winner through a lottery would also get $500,000, but that was abandoned since the event was announced last fall.

During the post-race press conference, Palou said he didn’t think it made sense to have a mid-season exhibition event.

“In my opinion, if it’s post-season it’s great to have an exhibition, no points, if it’s pre-season it’s great to have an exhibition, no points, but I don’t know why this is a non-points race, being the second race of the season,” he said.

“If we come back here, we need to have it as a points race.”

IndyCar will now take a month off before the Grand Prix of Long Beach on April 21.

This story has been updated with comment from Alex Palou