INDIANAPOLIS — Pato O’Ward has found the fountain of youth again. While the 22 year old driver isn’t old by any stretch of an imagination. In fact, he’s still a puppy in racing years. The thing is, he lost the passion when a contract dispute was taking place this past spring. It cost him results. Now that his future seems to be secured again with Arrow McLaren SP, one that both he and the team feel strongly about, the results have come back around by virtue of that.
O’Ward, finished 5th on the streets of Long Beach. He turned that into a front row starting spot and a win in the last race at the Barber Motorsports Park. He now comes to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway back in the hunt for the championship. A place reserved for someone as talented as him.
A happy O’Ward is a dangerous O’Ward to the field. 2 straight top 5 finishes, gaining 25 points in 1 weekend and going from 13th in points to 5th in 2 races.
“The most intense part of our season starts now with the GMR Grand Prix so it’s important for us to get a solid result to keep the momentum we have built up over the past few races, leading into the Indianapolis 500,” O’Ward said via a team release ahead of Saturday’s race (3 p.m. ET, NBC, INDYCAR Radio Network).
The thing is, can he keep that momentum going on what O’Ward considers one of their toughest race tracks – the 2.439-mile IMS road course.
O’Ward, told me before he earned the pole for the August race here that the natural road courses like Indy were their Achilles Heel. They were fast but not fast enough to compete with the big boys.
He was right because after he scored the pole, he only finished 5th. That’s still 10 spots better than he was in this very race last May though. In 2020, he was 8th, 22nd and 5th respectively on the IMS road course.
“In the past, this has been one of our most challenging tracks as a team but I am excited to get back to IMS and make the Arrow McLaren SP Chevrolets faster and better,” he continued.
That’s why a solid top five and keeping that foundation strong heading into the 106th Running of the Indianapolis 500 is key. He doesn’t want to lose that focus and drive. The hunger is there and the result have shown. They don’t want to go backwards again.
For the ‘500, O’Ward was 6th in 2020 and 4th last year. After Indy is Belle Isle which O’Ward won the second Duel and was 3rd in the first.
This stretch is key for him to not only stay in the title fight but to become a realistic contender too. Unfortunately, playing from behind has forced them to have to be flawless during this stretch.
That’s something his teammate is still chasing. Felix Rosenqvist has been a strong qualifier this year. He scored the pole in Texas, qualified 4th in Long Beach and 6th in Barber. Unfortunately, he has no top 10’s to show for it. He’s finished 21st, 11th and 16th respectively despite those strong Saturday’s.
While he too acknowledges AMSP’s road course struggles here, he’s still excited to get on track on Friday. He hopes the attention to detail to improve here pays off again.
“We are excited to be going into the month of May with the GMR Grand Prix,” Rosenqvist said. “It’s a track we have to be good at because we race here twice and it hasn’t been one of our stronger tracks in the past. I think we had some really good improvement last year, including being really strong in qualifying. The team has put in a lot of work over the past year to make sure we come to the IMS road course with a stronger package, so I’m pumped to see where we are this weekend.
“Then we’re going into the big one next week so the focus shifts quickly. I think we’re in a good spot and ready to go. We are ready for May.”
The team also gets back Juan Pablo Montoya this month as he’ll compete in both the GMR Grand Prix as well as the Indy 500 too. Montoya, started 25th and finished 21st in last year’s race as it was his first Grand Prix here since 2017 where he started 5th and finished 10th. He’s qualified in the top 8 in 4 of his 5 road course starts here including a top 6 result in 3 of the last 5 starts too.
However, his focus is more about the Indy 500 later this month, as Saturday’s race is more about repetition and preparing for the bigger prize.
“I am really excited to get back in the No. 6 Arrow McLaren SP Chevrolet this weekend,” Montoya said. “It’s gonna be a really challenging weekend, as we haven’t done any testing here but hopefully the starting balance is not too bad. But we need to remember why we are doing this and it’s all preparation for the Indianapolis 500. So, the better we work together here, it’s going to give us a head start for the big one.”