Palou becomes Spain's first IndyCar champ

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IndyCar series champion Alex Palou has raised the Spanish flag over his head and hugged every teammate he could find.

The first championship trophy of his professional career at last in his hands, he planted his lips on the Astor Cup and savoured a dream come true.

He spent two years racing in Japan, but it was IndyCar where he wanted to be and Palou simulated life as if he drove in America's top open-wheel racing series.

He's now an IndyCar champion - his first title since karting as a teen - and the first Spaniard to claim the crown in series history.

Palou finished fourth in an easy Sunday drive at the Grand Prix of Long Beach to cap a smooth and steady second season in IndyCar.

"There were moments where I was just feeling like I was living my dream, and now I'm doing it," Palou said after the race.

"Oh yeah, 100 per cent dream completed. Let's get another one now."

Colton Herta won the race - Long Beach is considered his home track - for his second consecutive win and third of the season.

Josef Newgarden finished second and Scott Dixon, the six-time and reigning champion, finished third before turning the IndyCar crown over to Chip Ganassi Racing teammate Palou.

Australian Will Power rounded off his 2021 campaign by coming home 10th in California, one spot ahead of three-time Supercars champion Scott McLaughlin.

Palou held a 35-point lead over Mexican Pato O'Ward at the start of the race and needed only to finish 11th or better to clinch the drivers' title.

Once O'Ward was knocked out with a mechanical problem, Palou just needed to make it to the finish - which he did with ease

It capped a remarkable run in which Palou earned his break a year ago with Dale Coyne Racing then manifested his childhood dream to race for a championship by introducing himself to Ganassi at the Indianapolis 500.

He moved into Ganassi's No.10 this year, won three races, finished second in the Indy 500 and led the standings 12 of 16 weeks.

"Chip told me when I joined that I had to win a championship, so that's not too much pressure," Palou joked.

"He likes winners. If you are not one, you are in trouble."

Team Penske's Newgarden was runner-up, 38 points adrift of Palou, while O'Ward was third, a further 24 points off the pace.

Power managed to secure ninth spot in the standings after a one-win, one-pole season while McLaughlin was 14th in the New Zealander's rookie year on the US circuit.

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