Spaniard Palou Becomes Latest ‘Kiwi Sensation’ with INDYCAR Fans

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When most race fans think of “Kiwis,” they likely think of six-time NTT INDYCAR SERIES champion Scott Dixon, a native of New Zealand and sports icon from the island nation.

If they’re thinking of the newest “Kiwi” in the series, it might be Team Penske rookie Scott McLaughlin, another native of New Zealand.

But there are even more “kiwis” in the INDYCAR paddock: Alex Palou’s fanbase.

Palou, a native of Barcelona, Spain, didn’t coin the term himself. It’s a funny story, he insists. It stems from a Twitch stream he hosted over the offseason. While driving on iRacing and preparing for Season 2 of the INDYCAR iRacing Challenge, where he won the first race at Montreal, the driver of the No. 10 NTT DATA Chip Ganassi Racing Honda was hungry.

So, he took a bite out of his favorite fruit, a kiwi. Skin and all.

“I started eating one, and everybody was going crazy,” Palou said. “I had about 500 people live, and they were all screaming.”

Don’t be mistaken, like the fans on the stream were – it wasn’t a green kiwi, which has a fuzzy brown skin. Palou eats yellow kiwi, which in contrast has a smooth, hairless skin but is still brown. Not knowing it was a yellow kiwi, the fans on the Twitch stream went crazy at the sight of Palou eating a hairy kiwi skin.

“I love kiwi. It’s a good fruit,” Palou said. “But I eat yellow kiwis, because they don’t have the hair on the outside, and it’s more sweet than the green one. I normally eat them a lot, and I eat them with the skin. For me, it was normal, but for everybody else it was not.”

Palou talked his fans down on the stream once he saw everyone in the comments asking how he was eating through the skin. The funny moment captured by Palou’s most avid race fans became a significant moment in their allegiance to their favorite driver. Now, Palou’s army of fans have deemed themselves “kiwis,” and the 24-year-old loves it.

“The groups online want to call themselves something, and they found a good one,” Palou said. “It’s cool. It’s something fun, instead of saying, ‘Palou fans.’ Like, come on, stop it. But kiwis is something funny that they use, and I use it, as well. Now, all my fans are kiwis.”

After the first day of the Indy 500 Open Test at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, Palou’s kiwis can rejoice because he was the sixth-fastest driver of the veterans’ session with a best lap of 219.969 mph. The session included all drivers who did not need to complete the Rookie Orientation Program or a veteran refresher test.

Palou said the speed of his black-and-blue Honda caught him by surprise on the opening laps but makes him optimistic for May.

“It felt strange the first couple of laps, because the car was going so quick,” he said. “I was like, ‘Oh, my God, if this should be flat then I’m not going flat.’ It was really good.

“It’s fun to get back here. This is another story. This is not something similar to Barber or Laguna or anything we’ve been doing. It’s amazing. We only did two or three runs, just enough to do a shakedown. Everything was going good.”

Palou’s time on track Thursday was cut short after rain began to fall around 12:30 p.m. ET. That means Friday will be a full day as Palou’s engineers have a long list of items for him to complete. Palou said the goal of tomorrow’s test is to find a car configuration that he finds comfortable for the team to bring back for the 105th Running of the Indianapolis 500 presented by Gainbridge on Sunday, May 30.

Even though Friday will be busy, Palou is excited to hit the track and run laps with his fellow teammates, which consist of Indy 500 winners and NTT INDYCAR SERIES champions Dixon and Tony Kanaan, and F1 veteran Marcus Ericsson.

“It’s amazing to be a part of the No. 10 and Chip Ganassi Racing,” he said. “I just think it’s going to be really awesome to have a full day of everybody on track. You’re going to see a difference when we run together with the teammates. Like, my teammates now are Scott Dixon, Tony and Marcus, so I’m with a team where we can say, ‘Hey, let’s go out together to practice and race,’ and that’s going to be awesome. It’s not like last year where we were only two cars, and I didn’t have two champions in between me. It’s going to be awesome to practice things with them.”

Palou, who scored one podium finish in his rookie season last year, will take the green flag on the NTT INDYCAR SERIES season Sunday, April 18 with the Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama presented by AmFirst at Barber Motorsports Park. Green flag is scheduled for 3 p.m. (ET, live on NBC and the INDYCAR Radio Network).

From the fans