Continuing our driver review series of the top 20 drivers of the 2022 NTT IndyCar Series championship, we are continuing our single-driver reviews until reaching Will Power, the 2022 IndyCar Series champion.
Here, we will focus on Pato O’Ward, the seventh placed driver in the championship points.
After fighting for an IndyCar championship in 2021, Pato O’Ward surely was disappointed to not be mathematically eligible for the 2022 IndyCar Series title before the final race. However, O’Ward amassed a pair of wins and runner-up finishes to give the Mexican racer plenty of highlight reel material for 2022.
The 2018 Indy Lights champion had a rough start to the season but picked up the first of his 2022 wins in May at Barber Motorsports Park. O’Ward had wins there in his junior open wheel career but had yet to win there in an Indy car.
The No. 5 Arrow McLaren SP Chevrolet sailed around Rinus VeeKay as the pair left the pits after their final pit stops and O’Ward never looked back.
A few short weeks later, O’Ward could not complete an outside pass on Marcus Ericsson with two miles remaining in the 107th Indianapolis 500. Completing that pass would’ve given O’Ward the win. Instead, he finished second, collecting a cool million dollars for his May 29th efforts.
After a fifth at the final race on Detroit’s Belle Isle, O’Ward was third in points. A summer stretch loomed across many familiar tracks for O’Ward. However, lady luck struck O’Ward with two mechanical retirements in a row at Road America and Mid-Ohio.
Iowa Speedway was very good for O’Ward with a second and a win at the only doubleheader of the 2022 season, but a mechanical failure after contact on the streets of Nashville was a final dagger to the young charger’s 2022 championship hopes.
O’Ward ended 2022 on a high note with a pair of fourths and an eighth in the final three races of the season. However, let’s look at how differently this season could have gone without those three retirements.
O’Ward started fifth at Road America and was running in the top 10 before his car stopped late in that race. At Mid-Ohio, O’Ward was on pole before running into his issues after the first pit stop. On the streets of Nashville, O’Ward again started fifth before the Lap 25 incident took him and other cars out of the race.
If those mechanical gremlins don’t crop up, O’Ward is in the title fight. Expect more of the same in 2023 if those demons don’t show up.