INDIANAPOLIS — The likely Rookie of the Year for the 104th Running of the Indianapolis 500 wasn’t a full blown rookie. Pato O’Ward finished sixth in Sunday’s race which will earn him top rookie honors. But, the Arrow McLaren SP driver isn’t technically a rookie on the NTT IndyCar Series season. This also isn’t the first time that the Mexican driver has been on the famed 2.5-mile oval.
O’Ward was here last year. He was with Carlin. He tried to make the race. He crashed in practice in his No. 31 Chevrolet then. The car never had enough pace in it to make the field of 33 after.
We thought that would be the last we’d see of him here in Indy. He signed a Red Bull developmental driver during that Month of May and overseas he’d go. A young talented future star in this series likely destined for a F1 future.
Luckily for us, unluckily for him, he came back. McLaren snagged him and he became one of two full time drivers for the team in 2020. The other? A true rookie in Oliver Askew.
A third car was rolled out for Indy. That driver? Two-time Formula One champion Fernando Alonso.
But, on Sunday, it was O’Ward who was best.
He was the quiet rookie until race weekend. He’s a rookie because while he’s practiced and qualified here, he’s never raced.
Rinus VeeKay made the Fast Nine. He qualified fourth. Best among the five rookies. Alex Palou was in the top 10 of literally every practice speed chart this month. He qualified seventh.
But, on Carb Day, no one was faster than O’Ward. On race day, he was the best rookie. Three of them crashed out, the other had a pit road mishap.
O’Ward’s No. 5 Chevrolet had a shot to win in the end. He’d finish sixth and now sits third in the NTT IndyCar Series points standings at the halfway point of the season.
“I think we had a solid run today.,” O’Ward said. “We were running in the top five most of the race. We were fighting up there, mixing it up with Dixon, Rossi, Takuma. Great job to him.”
O’Ward notes though that while being one of only two Chevy’s in the top 10 on Sunday, he just didn’t have enough for the Honda’s.
“But man, you know, towards the end, I just didn’t have quite enough to try and get those Hondas in front of us,” O’Ward continued.
“I think we juiced out the car. We got everything out of it. We were the second Chevy right behind Josef in fifth. I think it was a good job for my first-ever Indy 500. The only thing that matters here is winning, so…
“Excited to come back next year and try to get that win because this place is pretty special”
You will win here one day kid. You have the talent, the speed and what it takes to win. This place may be special, I agree, but so are you.