Arrow McLaren SP’s Patricio “Pato” O’Ward had a strong showing in the REV Group Grand Prix Presented by AMR Doubleheader at Road America this weekend, as the 2018 Indy Lights champion recorded two top ten finishes and his first career pole and podium.
O’Ward’s Saturday qualifying session saw him fighting a steering issue, but he wrestled a lap together to start twelfth. He managed to fight his way into the top ten and finish eighth in a relatively quiet race, with his only major issue being making contact with Conor Daly in turn seven causing Daly to wreck with fourteen laps to go.
The 21 year old reflected on that race and what he wanted to work on for Sunday.
“I truly feel like I gave it my all out there today,” O’Ward said. “We need to work on our black tyre pace but our red tyre pace is strong. Locking up in the last stint really put us back into the guys behind but we had the pace to catch the guys in front and try to challenge.
“I had to make some really late braking moves to get by some people. I think it’s something good that we can work on tomorrow, just seeing what the tyres did over the course of a stint. I want to qualify up front tomorrow. We have the car and I know the Arrow McLaren SP Chevrolets can run up front.”
O’Ward would get his wish as he tore up the 4.014 mile circuit putting his Chevrolet on pole for Sunday’s race. The young Mexican was the man to beat as he led forty of the fifty-five laps in a dominant display.
On lap forty-one, O’Ward’s team decided to gamble and put him on slightly used Firestone red wall option tyres, which would ultimately be the reason why he lost to eventual winner Felix Rosenqvist.
His tyres wore much faster than Rosenqvist’s sticker black primary tyres and with lap traffic of Conor Daly and Dalton Kellett getting in the way, it cost O’Ward the race as Rosenqvist closed the gap in the final five laps and made his move in turn five to take the lead and go on to win the race.
After the race, O’Ward commented on the heartbreaking result.
“Today was really tough,” he said. “The Ganassi cars and Felix had a lot of pace. We did a really good job managing the whole race. Toward the end, we had to mix with some lapped cars and some dirty air and it really hurt us.
“I gave it every single little bit that I had. I was pushing, pushing, pushing but I couldn’t keep Felix behind me. I really want to thank Arrow McLaren SP and Team Chevy. The car was really, really good but missed that little extra to keep the rear tires under us.
“We’re here. We got some good points this weekend. We are looking forward to Iowa. We like running up front, and I think we showed we have everything to do it.”
Next weekend the NTT Data INDYCAR Series heads to Iowa Speedway, a ⅞ of a mile oval for a Friday and Saturday night doubleheader. At the last oval race, the Genesys 300 at Texas Motor Speedway, O’Ward started eighteenth and finished twelfth, one lap down.
O’Ward will look to improve on that result at the shorter Iowa oval and possibly fight in the top ten once again.