Pato O’Ward to reach 50 IndyCar career starts at Iowa

Competing in his third full-time season in the NTT IndyCar Series, Patricio “Pato” O’Ward is primed for a milestone start. By competing in this weekend’s doubleheader feature at Iowa Speedway, the driver of the No. 5 Arrow McLaren SP Dallara-Chevrolet will achieve 50 career starts in the IndyCar circuit. 

A native of Monterrey, Mexico, O’Ward made his IndyCar debut at Sonoma Raceway in September 2018, which marked the final race of the season. By then, he had achieved the 2018 Indy Lights championship title for Andretti Autosport. Driving the No. 8 Dallara-Chevrolet for Harding Racing, O’Ward started fifth and finished ninth in his debut.

The following season, O’Ward, who departed Harding Steinbrenner Racing due to sponsorship issues that prevented him from competing with the team on a full-time basis, joined Carlin on a part-time basis in the No. 31 Dallara-Chevrolet. During his first start of the season at the Circuit of the Americas in March, he started and finished a season-best eighth. O’Ward returned for the next five of six events of the schedule, where he finished 12th at California’s Long Beach Street Circuit in April and 11th at The Raceway at Bell Isle, Michigan during a doubleheader feature in June. The low point for O’Ward during this span was failing to qualify for the 103rd running of the Indianapolis 500 in May. His seventh and final start of the season was at Road America in June, where he started 13th and finished 17th.

For the 2020 IndyCar season, O’Ward joined Arrow McLaren SP as driver of the No. 5 Dallara-Chevrolet. Commencing the season with a 12th-place result at Texas Motor Speedway in June and two consecutive eighth-place results during the following two events, O’Ward came within striking distance of claiming his maiden IndyCar victory in the second of a Road America doubleheader feature in July. Starting on pole position for the first time in his career, he led a race-high 43 of 55 laps but was overtaken by future teammate Felix Rosenqvist on the penultimate lap as he settled in a career-best second place.

Three races later, O’Ward notched a strong sixth-place result in the 104th running of the Indianapolis 500 in August, where he was named the Indy 500 Rookie-of-the-Year recipient. The following weekend during a doubleheader feature at Gateway Motorsports Park, he notched two consecutive podium results and was up in fourth place in the standings. When the season concluded at the Streets of St. Petersburg in October, O’Ward, who notched his third runner-up result, capped off his first full-time campaign in IndyCar competition in fourth place in the final standings along with a pole and four podiums.

Remaining at Arrow McLaren SP in 2021, O’Ward started the season on a strong note by starting on pole and finishing in fourth place at Barber Motorsports Park in April. Three races later and during the second of a doubleheader feature at Texas Motor Speedway, O’Ward scored his maiden IndyCar victory following a late battle with Josef Newgarden. As a result, O’Ward became the first Mexican competitor to win in the IndyCar Series since Adrian Fernandez won at California Speedway in October 2004. He also recorded the first victory for the team that was once Schmidt Peterson Motorsports since James Hinchcliffe won at Iowa Speedway in July 2018. By winning at Texas, O’Ward fulfilled a deal made with McLaren CEO Zak Brown prior to the 2021 season, where the rising Mexican star would receive a McLaren F1 test at season’s end if he recorded a victory in the IndyCar circuit.

Photo by Chris Owens (Penske Entertainment).

Four races following his maiden IndyCar victory, O’Ward achieved his second career victory in the second of a Chevrolet Detroit Grand Prix doubleheader feature at the Belle Isle Street Circuit in June following another late battle against Newgarden. By then, he emerged with a one-point advantage in the drivers’ standings.

As the 2021 IndyCar season progressed, O’Ward remained in the cusp of a close championship battle against Alex Palou, Josef Newgarden and Scott Dixon. After finishing second at Gateway’s World Wide Technology Raceway in August, O’Ward was leading the standings by 10 points over Palou. During the following two events, however, Palou, who won at Portland during this span while O’Ward managed a fifth-place result at Laguna Seca, reassumed the championship lead and led O’Ward by 35 points entering the season-finale event at the Streets of Long Beach. During the finale, however, O’Ward was involved in an early incident with Ed Jones, where Jones spun O’Ward. Despite continuing, the Mexican eventually retired due to a broken driveshaft originating from his spin. The end result saw O’Ward conclude his sophomore season in a career-best third place in the 2021 final standings along with two victories, five podiums, three poles and an average-finishing result of 8.3.

This season, O’Ward notched his third IndyCar career victory at Barber Motorsports Park in May following a late battle against Palou and Rinus VeeKay. To go along with a strong runner-up result in this year’s 106th running of the Indianapolis 500, a pole at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course during the Fourth of July weekend and an average-finishing result of 12.0, he currently sits in sixth place in the drivers’ standings and trails points leader Marcus Ericsson by 75 points.

Through 48 previous IndyCar starts, O’Ward has achieved three victories, five poles, 11 podiums, 411 laps led and an average-finishing result of 9.7.

O’Ward is scheduled to make his 49th career start in the NTT IndyCar Series in the Hy-VeeDeals.com 250 at Iowa Speedway on Saturday, July 23, at 4 p.m. ET on NBC before achieving his 50th series start in the Salute to Farmers 300 at Iowa on Sunday, July 24, at 3 p.m. ET on NBC



The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of SpeedwayMedia.com.

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