IndyCar

Pato O’Ward continues different IndyCar pole winner streak at Mid-Ohio

4 Mins read
Credit: Chris Owens/Penske Entertainment

The last time an NTT IndyCar Series began with nine different drivers winning pole across the first nine races, Bobby Lewis was the the top-charting Billboard single artist and West Side Story was on its way to winning Best Picture.

Pato O’Ward was pole winner #9 on Saturday at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course, setting a time of 1:06.70 that beat Scott McLaughlin by .13 of a second. In helping IndyCar set the different pole-sitters milestone last achieved in 1961, O’Ward notched his fifth career pole and third on a road course after Road America in 2020 and Barber last year. He also scored his best qualifying spot at Mid-Ohio by a wide margin as his previous best was fifteenth in his track début in 2020.

Despite the pole, O’Ward described it as “really messy” as “I kept leaving three, four, even half a second on the table just because I couldn’t get it right. If it wasn’t turn blah-blah, it was another. It was really tough to get it right, so I’m super happy to get it together for the team in Q3.”

“I’ve had very successful weekends here in junior formulas but haven’t really capitalised a weekend here in IndyCar, so I think this is the first step. I’m excited for tomorrow. I think we will have a strong race car as we’ve had in the past; the problem is we just haven’t really had that chance to make our life a little bit easier during the race. I’ve had to pass so many cars.”

The session was not without incident for O’Ward, who blocked rookie David Malukas during the second round and prevented him from setting a strong time to make the Firestone Fast Six. IndyCar elected not to penalise O’Ward for the hindrance and Malukas placed eighth, still good enough to be the highest qualifying rookie.

“I am very angry,” said Malukas. “We were being impeded, [O’Ward] didn’t even get an impedement (penalty) for it and we left a little bit on the box there, we missed the Fast Six. It’s really unfortunate I couldn’t show everything that the Dale Coyne car had today. It was spectacular. We tried to put things for the first practice, made it into the top six for the first group, and switched it all together to go for the second qualifying and it was right where we needed it to be.

“It was unfortunate we ended up getting blocked there and couldn’t make it in. But overall, the fact that we’re unhappy for P8, I think it shows that we’re going in the right direction.”

Credit: Chris Owens/Penske Entertainment

O’Ward simply described the matter as “not my problem. I think he’s got to learn how to distance himself and learn that. He put himself in that position. The red tyres were coming in on lap three and he was on my gearbox in lap one. It’s like, ‘You think I’m going to let you by or something?’ I’m in my programme too.

“I don’t think I was doing anything wrong there. I was gapping to Simon and he decided not to do so, and he had a pretty big gap. Usually, people respect when someone gaps in front of you, they keep gapping so you’re not really under threat. I saw that, I was also surprised. I was like, ‘Why was he backing away?’ But yeah, he did that to himself.”

Although he fell short of the pole, McLaughlin’s qualifying effort is his best at a road course, trumping his fourth at Barber in May. The rest of the Fast Six consisted of Colton Herta, Felix Rosenqvist, Scott Dixon, and Simon Pagenaud. All but Pagenaud have won a pole in 2022, though Pagenaud enjoys his third Fast Six qualification of the year.

Will Power received a qualifying interference penalty when he impeded Hélio Castroneves‘ flying lap while warming his tyres, forcing Castroneves to swerve before going through the grass. As a result, Power’s time—which would have topped his group’s—was void and he was relegated to a starting position of twenty-first.

While the penalty leaves Power in a difficult spot for Sunday, it did little to help championship leader Marcus Ericsson and 2021 Mid-Ohio winner Josef Newgarden‘s qualifying runs as they fell short of making the second round. They will respectively start thirteenth and fourteenth, just ahead of Castroneves.

Despite so many contenders at the back, O’Ward knows not to underestimate the race.

“If you look at it, it’s a great opportunity to capitalise, but there are certain rules that can really throw your race upside-down if something happens that you really can’t control,” he continued. “Sometimes, it is a lot better to be starting at the back, as we saw at Portland last year, than being in the front. I think we’ve definitely executed when qualifying came, and I think tomorrow, we just need to take the race as it comes and just be sure that we can react to certain things to keep our position.”

Qualifying results

PositionNumberDriverTeamBest TimeBest Speed (mph)
15Pato O’WardArrow McLaren SP01:06.7054121.861
23Scott McLaughlinTeam Penske01:06.8382121.619
326Colton HertaAndretti Autosport01:07.0262121.278
47Felix RosenqvistArrow McLaren SP01:07.2163120.935
59Scott DixonChip Ganassi Racing01:07.4047120.597
660Simon PagenaudMeyer Shank Racing01:07.4199120.570
710Álex PalouChip Ganassi Racing01:06.7965121.695
818David MalukasDale Coyne Racing with HMD Motorsports01:06.8201121.652
914Kyle KirkwoodA.J. Foyt Enterprises01:06.9506121.415
1077Callum IlottJuncos Hollinger Racing01:06.9534121.410
1121Rinus VeeKayEd Carpenter Racing01:06.9843121.354
1227Alexander RossiAndretti Autosport01:07.0155121.297
138Marcus EricssonChip Ganassi Racing01:07.1475121.059
142Josef NewgardenTeam Penske01:07.3338120.724
1506Hélio CastronevesMeyer Shank Racing01:07.1798121.001
1630Christian LundgaardRahal Letterman Lanigan Racing01:07.4207120.568
1728Romain GrosjeanAndretti Autosport01:07.2573120.861
1815Graham RahalRahal Letterman Lanigan Racing01:07.5909120.265
1951Takuma SatoDale Coyne Racing with Rick Ware Racing01:07.4645120.490
2029Devlin DeFrancescoAndretti Autosport01:07.6475120.164
2112Will PowerTeam Penske01:07.5559120.327
2220Conor DalyEd Carpenter Racing01:07.6745120.116
234Dalton KellettA.J. Foyt Enterprises01:08.2444119.113
2445Jack HarveyRahal Letterman Lanigan Racing01:07.9362119.653
2516Simona De SilvestroParetta Autosport01:08.4995118.669
2611Tatiana CalderónA.J. Foyt Enterprises01:08.4370118.778
2748Jimmie JohnsonChip Ganassi Racing01:08.5318118.614
Italics – Rookie
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Justin is neither a NASCAR nor off-road racer, but he has covered them for The Checkered Flag since 2018.
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