Yet again, Patricio O’Ward will have to wait for his first IndyCar win.
The second-year driver, currently running his first full season for Arrow McLaren SP after a part-time rookie campaign last season, was awarded the title of Indianapolis 500 Rookie of the Year just last weekend after finishing sixth and running in the top five for the majority of the race. Yesterday, he led about half of the first race of a doubleheader before his car fell off the pace of leaders Dixon and Sato over the last stint, ending up third. A month earlier, he led almost all of a race at Road America before tire wear left him vulnerable to a trailing Felix Rosenqvist, who passed him in a late battle that took nearly five corners to complete, eventually finishing second. Today’s race, however, was closer than any of those.
O’Ward did not lead today as he did yesterday, but he spent the first three stints of what was firmly a race divided into four parts by a universal three-stop strategy running a close second to Penske Racing’s Will Power. Passing proved difficult throughout the day, so he put little pressure on Power, and took little pressure behind from his teammate, Josef Newgarden. On the final stop, Power was delayed when the cycle sent him back out into traffic and he was forced to lift multiple times to avoid slower cars.
O’Ward and Newgarden would stop at the same time, and a blisteringly quick stop by Newgarden got him out ahead of Newgarden by mere feet exiting the pit lane. The two stayed together in an unusual battle for what became the lead throughout the service lane through turns 1 and 2, but O’Ward was unable to make the outside work while accelerating on the flat, non-racing surface, and Newgarden came out ahead. With Power falling down to third, O’Ward was within half a second for the entire remainder of the race, but could not find an opportunity to contest him for the race win.
The win is Newgarden’s second of the season, joining a win in the second race of the doubleheader at Iowa. He remains a distant second in the championship standings, but a quiet finish of fifth by Scott Dixon has kept him from digging too far into what remains a nearly hundred-point lead in a series where the most points available to a driver in a race is just over 50. O’Ward, surprisingly, entered this race in third, and remains third in the standings, while today’s polesitter and last weekend’s newly crowned two-time Indianapolis 500 champion Takuma Sato sits in a comfortable fourth. Andretti Autosport’s Colton Herta finds himself in fifth, meaning that no team has more than one driver in the top five through nine races of what could still end up being a 14-race season.
IndyCar will take another full month off before returning for two races at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway’s road course, the debut of an event called the Harvest Grand Prix. The season will then either conclude with the Grand Prix of St. Petersburg or continue with a doubleheader at Mid-Ohio that could be scheduled in between those races.
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