By Bob Priddy, Contributing Editor

(INDYCAR)—Team owner Chip Ganassi has reaped instant dividends in his signing of Alex Palou in the offseason, watching him take INDYCAR’s season debut race at Barber Motorspots Park for his first career in in the series. The spotlight all week had been on Pato O’Ward of Arrow McLaren SP, who had taken the pole after a much more impressive season last year and who had sprinted to an early lead early on the first lap.

The complexion of the race changed before the cars started their second lap when Josef Newgarden spun and set off a crash that eliminated four other drivers from contention. Rookie Jimmie Johnson’s spin a few laps later left teams with a key strategic choice—to try to pit only twice, or to pit three times. Palou’s team opted for the two-stop strategy, O’Ward went with three.

Will Power and defending INDYCAR champion Scott Dixon, Palou’s teammate, also went with the two-stop strategy and finished second and third. O’Ward came home fourth.

The win is Palou’s first in INDYCAR.

The race began with a lot of attention focuses on three rookies in the field—Formula 1 expatriate Romain Grosjean finished tenth.  Scott McLaughlin, a champion in Australia and New Zealand faded to 14th late, and former NASCAR champion Jimmie Johnson was 19th, his day ruined by the spin.

INDYCAR runs at St. Petersburg next weekend.

(NASCAR)—NASCAR has finished its first short-track series of the year with Alex Bowman’s win at Richmond. It’s his third career win.  Kevin Havick’s wreck with twenty laps to go left Denny Hamlin with the lead off of pit road. But Bowman passed him with nine laps left leaving Hamlin with another disappointing result.

Hamlin led 207 of the 400 laps on the .75 mile track but was left with his eighth top-five finish in nine races this year. It was his first runner-up but he has four thirds.

Bowman is the eighth winner in the first nine races.

NASCAR leaves the short ovals for its longest oval next week, moving to Talladega.

(FORMULA 1)—Max Verstappen finished 22 seconds ahead of defending F1 champion Lewis Hamilton to take the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix at Imola. Young McLaren driver Lando Norris equaled the best finish of his young career by claiming the last podium position.

F-1observers expect Verstappen and Hamilton to fight intensively throughout the long season for the championship.