Thursday, June 8, 2023

O’Ward Wins a Wild Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama

Pato O'Ward win at Barber Motorsports Park
Pato O’Ward captured the third win of his NTT IndyCar Series career on Sunday at Barber Motorsports Park. Image courtesy of Matt Fraver / Penske Entertainment

The 22-year-old Mexican led the final 27 of 90 laps to claim his third win in the NTT IndyCar Series, which came by 0.9800s over Alex Palou. Pole-sitter Rinus Veekay, who led 57 laps, finished on the final step of the podium in third.

The winning move that ultimately decided the race came after O’Ward and VeeKay made their pit stops on Lap 61. The two exited the pits nose to tail, each on cold new Firestone primary (black sidewall) tires, with the No. 5 Arrow McLaren SP Chevrolet of O’Ward putting on the pressure and finally getting around VeeKay’s No. 21 Ed Carpenter Racing Chevrolet in Turn 5. From there, it was a methodical march for O’Ward to the checkered flag.

“Taylor (Kiel, strategist and AMSP President) told me we’re fighting for the win. We almost got him in the pit stops. I said, ‘No, this is your chance, man.’ It was so tough to follow just because it’s such a fast and flowing circuit. So I knew if I would have the opportunity, it would’ve been right then and there. I got on my button [push-to-pass] and got around him into (Turn) 5 and I knew if we would get into clean air, we could kind of control the thing. Once we did that, it was a cruise to Victory Lane.”

Where Palou managed to grab the runner-up spot was by taking the over-cut, electing to pit three laps later than O’Ward and VeeKay. As a result, Palou, who switched to a set of used primaries, was able to make up the gap and came out with his No. 10 Chip Ganassi Racing Honda right in between his race-contending rivals.

Will Power, who started 19th in the No. 12 Team Penske Chevrolet, mixed pace with strategy to climb to fourth, just ahead of the No. 9 CGR Honda of Scott Dixon in fifth.

Scott McLaughlin claimed sixth. Romain Grosean’s No. 28 Andretti Autosport Honda was part of several tight on-track battles, including a late run-in with Graham Rahal, and managed to push through to finish seventh. Rahal’s No. 15 Rahal Letterman Lanigan Honda came across behind in eighth.

An adventurous weekend for Alexander Rossi concluded with his No. 27 Andretti Autosport Honda in ninth. He was running fourth until taking a set of used reds (alternate compound tire) on his final pit stop on Lap 60. The less-preferred compound of the frontrunners and the sequences of pit stops saw him drop out of contention for a podium.

Colton Herta was at the center of the action on Sunday, with his No. 26 Andretti Autosport Honda having close calls, including an off-track moment passing Grosjean in Turn 1 at the mid-way point of the race. Then, in the run to the finish he made multiple attempts to pass McLaughlin for, at the time, a top five spot. However, the two collided wheels, which sent Herta into a spin and left him to recover to take the last spot in the top 10.

Simon Pagenaud, Marcus Ericsson and Takuma Sato grabbed positions 11th, 12th and 13th.

Josef Newgarden, who entered the weekend as the points leader, was on pace with a three-stop strategy to potentially pull off something special. But the strategy play came undone for the three-time Barber winner on Lap 32 after rookie Callum Ilott’s strongest weekend to date came to an end in the Turn 8 gravel trap. Newgarden ended up 14th.

Christian Lundgaard managed to put his No. 30 Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing Honda in 15th, and was the highest finishing rookie on the day.

PositionCar No.DriverGap from LeaderLaps LedLaps
15Pato O'Ward2790
210Alex Palou-0.9800590
321Rinus VeeKay-12.48195790
412Will Power-15.261690
59Scott Dixon-22.829790
63Scott McLaughlin-24.064990
728Romain Grosjean-24.516190
815Graham Rahal-24.516190
927Alexander Rossi-33.249790
1026Colton Herta-33.510290
1160Simon Pagenaud-33.741890
128Marcus Ericsson-34.473890
1351Takuma Sato-34.914090
142Josef Newgarden-35.6807290
1530Christian Lundgaard (R)-35.680790
167Felix Rosenqvist-41.614590
1729Devlin DeFrancesco (R)-42.451190
1845Jack Harvey-62.326790
1920Conor Daly-63.294790
2018David Malukas (R)-63.743590
2106Helio Castroneves-64.532290
2214Kyle Kirkwood (R)-1 LAP89
234Dalton Kellett-1 LAP89
2448Jimmie Johnson-1 LAP89
2577Callum Ilott (R)-2 LAPS88
2611Tatiana Calderon (R)-2 LAPS88

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