To note: The editorial staff of INDYCAR.com looks back on the 10 greatest moments of 2021 in INDYCAR in this year-end series, with one episode per day on the site in countdown mode from December 22 to 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 got better for the team when Scott Dixon won the third race of the year, ahead of the doubles program at Texas Motor Speedway. Then when Marcus Ericsson won the opening race in Detroit, well, the season became historic for the Indianapolis-based organization.
Despite all of Chip Ganassi’s success as a team owner, he had never seen three drivers win a race in the same single-seater series in one season. The closest 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 to note, as CGR became INDYCAR’s gold standard in 2021.
The Honda-powered trio’s six wins gave the team their highest INDYCAR total since Dario Franchitti and Dixon won six races in 2011. Palou has won three times (at Barber, Road America and Portland International Raceway), Ericsson twice (Detroit 1 and Nashville) and Dixon once (Texas).
By placing three drivers in the top six of the final standings, Ganassi has done 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 was fourth and Ericsson sixth.
It’s also worth noting that CGR excelled while fielding the most watched car of the season. Jimmie Johnson’s foray into INDYCAR put the # 48 Honda in the spotlight for its 12 road and track races, then 2004 INDYCAR SERIES champion Tony Kanaan drove it in four oval track races. , including a 10th place finish at the Indianapolis 500 presented by Gainbridge.
With Kanaan qualifying in fifth place for the “500,” Ganassi’s side showed their dominance again in 2021 by fielding their four cars in the Fast Nine Shootout at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Dixon led the way, who won pole for the fourth time in his career. Palou got the sixth starting position and Ericsson the ninth. Palou then led 35 laps in the race – the second highest total of the day behind Conor Daly’s 40 – and finished second behind Helio Castroneves.
Add it up: it’s been a remarkable year for CGR and the best team performance of the series in 2021.