Monday, June 5, 2023

Domination Ends in Defeat for Pato O’Ward at Texas

Pato O'Ward at the 2023 PPG 375 at Texas Motor Speedway.
Pato O’Ward at the 2023 PPG 375 at Texas Motor Speedway. Photo courtesy of Rick Lunkenheimer/

Pato O’Ward didn’t lead the most laps during Sunday’s PPG 375 at Texas Motor Speedway, but the NTT IndyCar Series saw a performance that would make a casual observer think otherwise.

O’Ward’s No. 5 Arrow McLaren Chevrolet led 91 of the race’s 250 laps, but it was a stint up front starting on Lap 129 that really showed the field what they were up against. The 2021 Texas race two winner slowly built up a lead over Josef Newgarden that was over eight seconds before Newgarden’s pit stop on Lap 164.

By that time, the entire rest of the field was at least one lap down. O’Ward was on a lap all by himself. It was smooth sailing for the Mexican racer but then Felix Rosenqvist hit the wall on Lap 179, bringing out a caution.

That yellow plus the wave arounds under caution allowed six other drivers to get back on the lead lap. Turning a two-car battle into an eight-driver free-for-all made O’Ward’s job that much more difficult.

That job became all the more difficult when Newgarden found the right adjustments and a little bit of luck to nose ahead of O’Ward with two laps to go.

Romain Grosjean hit the Turn 2 wall while fighting for a top five position with David Malukas and the No. 2 Team Penske Chevrolet was ahead.

The race was over.

It was O’Ward’s second runner-up finish in a row after leading late in the race. At St. Petersburg, O’Ward had a plenum fire in the engine that momentarily zapped his engine of power. At Texas, it was pure racing luck.

“I knew I could have won,” O’Ward said. “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.”

O’Ward leads the points as IndyCar heads to the streets of Long Beach for the Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach on April 16th.

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