INDIANAPOLIS — Pato O’Ward could be dejected. A third runner-up finish in five races this season. Instead, he leaves Saturday’s GMR Grand Prix in a jubilant mood. He’ll take it. 16 podiums in 60 starts and 27 top five finishes leave him with joy. He knows that as long as you keep it close, the wins will eventually come. His teammate Alexander Rossi says he ought to enough the runner-up’s because this series is far to difficult not to. O’Ward agrees.
“Man, I’m flowing. I know my wins will come. I’m chilling,” he says.
“I mean, honestly, if we’re second for the rest of the season, we’re chilling. Yeah, they will fall. Is it going to fall the next one, in two, three, four, five? Who knows. Is it going to fall until next year? You never know.
“I sure know that what we’ve been doing, we’ve been knocking on the door every single weekend. Like, there hasn’t been one weekend where we’re lost, no. There’s been some weekends where we haven’t started off that strong. We make changes and we’re right there.
“I’m just really enjoying it, we just got to keep doing what we’re doing.”
In the season opener on the streets of St. Pete, he had the race won. He took over the lead when Scott McLaughlin and Romain Grosjean crashed each other on Lap 71. Then an electrical malfunction in his engine not of his doing with two laps remaining handed the win to Marcus Ericsson instead. Despite 23 laps led, he left runner-up.
“Frazzled,” said O’Ward of his emotions that day.
A plenum event is the official diagnoses of what transpired to which kept O’Ward out of victory lane in the season opener.
“Well, at that point you can’t really do much besides just kind of — I didn’t have a lot of Push-to-Pass to play with, so I was managing it accordingly, and I think we would have been just fine,” O’Ward said of the bad luck. “We were managing a one-second gap, and I don’t think Marcus was going to get us.
“Yeah, I mean, kind of speaks for itself. Right at the exit, we kind of lost drive and gained it back. We were lucky not to get passed by Scott.
“Yeah, I don’t know what else to tell you. It’s very unfortunate.”
The next race in Texas, he had a fast car, had everyone minus Josef Newgarden lapped. Then came a caution for his teammate Felix Rosenqvist crashing. It let Newgarden and everyone else back in it. Still, O’Ward was timing his passes late in the race to beat Newgarden in a last lap photo finish.
A caution again. Second again. He led 91 laps that day.
“I knew I could have won,” said O’Ward. “It’s just there was really no other way to do it besides timing it. You had to do it the last lap ’cause if not, they were probably going to do it to you.
“Just the timing of the last yellow is what really killed us to be honest. All the other ones, you can’t judge when they fall or didn’t fall. If they did, it would probably be a very different story.”
Being overly aggressive led to a bad 17th place Long Beach result before a rebound to fourth in Barber. Now, a runner-up at Indy again.
O’Ward trails Alex Palou by six points heading to the most important race of the year.