Alex Palou basks in IndyCar championship afterglow with Dale Jr., Daniel Craig face time

Alex Palou Daniel Craig
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CONCORD, N.C. – The receiving line on a recent jaunt to Charlotte for NTT IndyCar Series champion Alex Palou included Dale Earnhardt Jr., Daniel Craig and dozens of autograph-seeking fans at the Roval.

But the start of his North Carolina field trip — in the Harry and Izzy’s restaurant at the Indianapolis airport — yielded another telling sign the first IndyCar title by a Spaniard was gaining traction two weeks into the reign.

“Probably every day since (the season finale at) Long Beach, I got recognized by three, four or five people, and it’s been great,” Palou told NBC Sports in a Sunday morning interview at Charlotte Motor Speedway, where he attended his first NASCAR Cup race. “But I didn’t expect that someone at the airport preparing our food would recognize me, and then all the servers were saying, ‘Oh, we don’t have fried chicken today!’ So they knew also my background, not only that I’m somebody new that just won the championship.

“That’s amazing. I like it. I think that means that they’d like to know me a bit more. That’s what it’s all about. IndyCar, it’s not huge on media, which is a bit of a shame. We have great personalities. We have so many different drivers from different teams and different countries, it would be amazing if people would know more about them. It’s not going to change from one day to the other that suddenly we can have lots more time on TV and share the stories. But I think it’s growing, and it’s good that we see it at a small restaurant at the airport. It just started, right? So better than nothing.”

It’s easy to see how his winner’s tradition of a fried chicken meal after every checkered flag has become widespread knowledge. The laps he made in a “Chicken Limo” at Indianapolis Motor Speedway were the buzziest part of Palou’s championship afterglow — until the whirlwind weekend in the Charlotte area (with longtime girlfriend Esther Valle as his traveling companion).

Palou, 24, got a guided tour of the NASCAR Hall of Fame, attended a Pitbull concert near Charlotte Motor Speedway and was the featured guest on the popular Dale Jr. Download podcast.

During a garage tour (where he drew constant attention and congratulations from fans), Palou met with several NASCAR personalities, including president Steve Phelps and seven-time champion icon Richard Petty (“They all said they want Jimmie (Johnson) back here; I said we’re keeping Jimmie,” Palou said with a laugh about his Chip Ganassi Racing teammate).

But of course, the highlight was a brief meeting with Craig, the honorary starter of Sunday’s Roval race who was promoting his final turn as James Bond in the famous movie franchise. A vintage car collector buff, Craig seemed to realize whom Palou was after being told of his IndyCar connection.

It was the latest example of how life had been “perfect” for Palou since Long Beach, where he finished fourth to clinch the championship on the heels of a runner-up at Laguna Seca and a victory at Portland – three consecutive tracks where he was making his debut while championship rivals Pato O’Ward, Josef Newgarden and Scott Dixon had experience.

“We had the opportunity to fight for a championship, and I wanted it so bad, and all the team wanted it so bad,” he said. “We wanted to make sure we got it, so I knew that Portland was going to be difficult for us because Pato won there in the Indy Lights championship, so he knew the track. We tested with him. He was faster than us. I didn’t know the track, but we made the pole and were able to be successful.”

Portland came after a two-race swoon dropped Palou from a 40-point lead to second in the standings – and brought some seven-time championship counsel from Johnson.

“He told me after the Indy road course when we had the engine failure, he said that because once you have an issue and are in a bad situation, it’s like, ‘Whoa, whoa, whoa,’ ” Palou said. “Then you think that maybe you have to do something else on track and off track and prepare differently. And I actually thought, ‘Oh man, we just lost this, I can not lose anymore. Let’s try and do something different.’ He said no, no. Just be yourself. That’s the best way. As soon as you start preparing things differently to what you’ve been doing, then that’s when bad things happen.

“It means that I just work the same way as I’ve been doing since the start of the season. It’s just a small bit of advice that he told me, but it goes a long way because it’s a super big thing.”

Next up on the Palou Victory Tour is a return to his home country of Spain for much of November. The Barcelona native also plans to “return a big house in the middle of the mountains” to bring in him family to celebrate before returning to Indianapolis in early December for offseason meetings and a physical.

But he also will make the promotional rounds in Spain’s capital of Madrid. After being miffed that he felt undercovered by Spanish media outlets in his Indy 500 debut last year, Palou proudly tweeted about his IndyCar championship prominently featured on the front page of MARCA, a major Spanish sports daily newspaper that mainly focuses on soccer. He also joked about bumping a headline on two-time Formula One champion Fernando Alonso – the country’s primary racing hero — inside the paper.

“I think I’ve always been speaking bad about media in Spain, which I still do” said Palou, whose preseason prediction came true that he would win this year before more publicized Spanish drivers Alonso and Carlos Sainz Jr. (who remain winless in F1 2021). “But they are trying their best. So it’s a love-hate relationship, but it’s getting better. So yeah, I’ll try to take advantage of it, because I think it’s crazy we have the opportunity to talk more about IndyCar and the championship itself. And now that we’ve won, obviously about ourselves, too.

“It was amazing to see it on the Monday after Long Beach. You could see it was us and then (Lewis) Hamilton on the small side with the soccer. I actually put it on Twitter myself just because man, I didn’t expect that. That’s huge for Spain. Because it’s tough to follow a sport that it’s a different time zone. The other part of the world, and that you can not really follow it on TV. But for a newspaper like that to put it on the cover, it was huge.”

Palou is hoping to follow it up with another title in 2022, which is why his offseason regimen of simulator work and testing already is in full swing for his second season at Ganassi.

“That’s the good thing about having a year with the same team with the same group of people,” he said. “I know exactly what I need to improve. Hopefully it’s going to be enough to get the second (championship), or to fight for a second one. I think it will be. I know we have lots of places where we need to improve as a team and as a driver. Hopefully next year it’s going to be even better, and we can fight for the Indy 500 and the championship.”

Vicki Golden and 805 Beer tell a unique story from an Inverted Perspective

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Vicki Golden has earned a career worthy of a thousand stories and 805 Beer tells at least one of them, as “Inverted Perspective” premiered March 30 on the company’s website and YouTube channel.

Golden did more to break the glass ceiling in SuperMotocross than she ever thought possible. She knows this because riders have never felt the need to explain any of her accomplishments with the disclaimer, “for a girl”. 

At this point in Golden’s career, she’s been the first woman to finish top 10 in AMA Arenacross Lites, the first woman to qualify in the Fast 40 in Monster Energy AMA Supercross and the first woman to compete in freestyle Moto X competition, earning a bronze medal by doing so.

Her love for moto came from childhood while she watched her dad and brother ride. By seven she was on her bike and making waves throughout Southern California. 

Golden, 30, is still madly in love with the sport and has no plans on moving away but her career is already one to talk about. 805 Beer’s film series wanted to do exactly that.

“I’m taken aback by it all,” Golden told NBC Sports about the documentary. “It’s just crazy to see your story, it’s one thing to live your life and battle everything that comes about but it’s another to just sit there and talk about it.”

805 approached Golden about the feature by asking, “Do you even realize that what you do, and your story is special?”

Golden took the question as a blank canvas to map out the highs and lows of her career and life. 

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The title “Inverted Perspective” came from a brainstorming session with Dominick Russo and it highlights Golden’s outlook on the sport of SuperMotocross and her life in general. 

“My whole life, my whole career was thinking differently and looking at things that shouldn’t be done and aren’t there, while being able to make a place for myself, where no one thought there should be a place,” Golden said.  “It’s inspiring someone to think in different ways. It sums up my life.”

Vicki Golden is not “fast for a girl”; she’s just fast. – 805 Beer

While Golden is no stranger to the spotlight, this was the first time she’s been fully involved with the storytelling and creation of a feature about herself. 

“It’s not like a full new experience,” Golden said. “Obviously, you get your standard questions about your upbringing and accomplishments, but I’ve never really put into perspective things that happened in my past with my dad and putting that to light. Also, certain other things that maybe got overlooked in previous interviews or films. I wanted to touch on these and Dom wanted to create a story. It’s just cool to see it come to light, it’s a nearly impossible thing to tell somebody’s life story in 40 minutes.”

Golden’s father was left paralyzed after an ATV accident, robbing him the opportunity to ride again. This happened a few months before the father-daughter duo was set to compete in the Loretta Lynn’s Amateur Nationals when Vicki was 12. While she might have been unable to grasp the severity at the time, it’s something she carries with her. Golden continues to ride in his honor.

Years later, an accident in 2018 nearly sidelined the then 25-year-old Vicki when a freestyle accident almost resulted in the amputation of her lower leg. 

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Golden 805 Beer
Vicki Golden has ridden a variety of disciplines in SuperMotocross, which gives her a unique perspective. – 805 Beer

“Inverted Perspective” highlights her father’s diligence in helping Vicki continue with her career and the kindness and strength he carried while fighting his own battle. 

“My dad was the entire reason that I started riding in the first place,” Golden said. “So, to honor his memory and to honor what we went through and how hard he pushed to keep our dream alive and keep everything going – in that sense then, it was really special to be able to honor him and talk about him.”

The 40-minute feature was filmed entirely in black and white, a stark contrast from the oversaturated world of motocross where the brighter the suit the easier it is for fans to find their rider and follow him in the race. By filming in monochrome Russo and Golden had the chance to focus on the race and track from a different perspective. 

“It was cool to be able to film it differently,” Golden said. “It created a challenge in the sense of what was going to be more visually impactful for the film.

“I couldn’t be here without the companies that back me but at the same time, it’s not like the logos or colors disappeared, it’s just different lights shed on different spots. It’s just a cool way to do it and to take color away and still be impactful. When you think of black and white, you think of old school, the OG way of doing things.”