A lot of noise has swirled around Pato O’Ward and his future within the IndyCar paddock, but he is blocking it’s helping focus an early season turnaround.
The 22-year-old has been the center of speculation regarding his future with Arrow McLaren SP, but a new deal seems on the horizon. In turn, the emphasis has been on changing fortunes from two finishes outside the top 10 through the opening three races.
The Long Beach Grand Prix – the most recent round on the NTT IndyCar Series schedule – ended positively as the young Mexican drove from 11th to earn his season-best result of fifth. The No. 5 AMSP Chevrolet team sits ninth with 63 total points banked in the standings.
Leaving California, O’Ward has been looking to rewrite the narrative to his 2022 campaign. He starts second tomorrow, which marks his best qualifying result of the season.
“Yeah, this is the first decent qualifying we’ve had this year, which makes us all feel really good, motivated for tomorrow,” said O’Ward, who finished third in last year’s championship standings. “I think tomorrow the weather is going to be an interesting factor into playing what the strategy is going to be like. I think it also might play into shuffling things around.”
O’Ward noted that part of what has been unfavorable is being behind from the time they unload and prepare for a race weekend.
“I would say we’ve had it probably twice this year (a good car off the truck),” he said. “Not in St. Pete, not in Long Beach. Definitely in Texas. I really think in Texas we had an easy podium finish there. If I didn’t overshoot the pit lane and hurt one of my guys. But I’m glad he’s all good and participating.
“Yeah, I mean, I think it’s probably the second time we’ve rolled off in the window without kind of having to scramble and finding things to make it go faster.”
For O’Ward to reset the season from here on out, he would need a string of strong results. The Month of May comes with a big serving of possible points to make up being 55 points behind current championship leader Josef Newgarden. Tomorrow’s Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama is the first step in a month-long process that ends with a double-points paying Indianapolis 500 on May 29.
“It’s been the goal, right?” O’Ward said. “It’s been the goal to kind of ramp up how we’ve had a bit of a rough start. I think Long Beach was a significant step forward. I think this is a great qualifying for us as a group.
“I think Felix (Rosenqvist) had a great qualifying, as well. We’re both happy that we’re both towards the front end of the grid.”
O’Ward wrapped up Saturday ninth on the time sheets in final practice and completed 18 laps with a 1m08.0377s fastest lap.