By JENNA FRYER, AP Auto Racing Author
The beginning-and-stop uncertainty of this IndyCar season has not bothered Pato O’Ward, chief of a younger fleet of drivers new to the sequence however able to maintaining with the veterans.
O’Ward, in his first full season of IndyCar, has climbed to 3rd within the championship standings headed into the Saturday and Sunday doubleheader at Mid-Ohio Sports activities Automobile Course in Lexington, Ohio. He is coming off a pair of podium finishes on the oval at Gateway, the place O’Ward led 130 laps over two races.
Had the pandemic not decimated the IndyCar schedule, O’Ward may need constructed some momentum to have already earned his first sequence win. The 21-year previous Mexican acknowledges there have been lengthy pauses in racing this season however realized to regulate to uncertainty throughout a chaotic 2019.
“I’m so grateful for this 12 months as a result of to me this isn’t a shock. It’s not that loopy for me as a result of final 12 months, I don’t understand how a lot loopy you would have gotten from that,” O’Ward mentioned.
It was fairly the odyssey for O’Ward, who received 9 of 17 Indy Lights races and the 2018 title that earned him a promotion to the massive leagues. He was set to affix Colton Herta to kind the youngest lineup in IndyCar historical past however his cope with Harding Steinbrenner Racing collapsed a month earlier than the season opener.
O’Ward started to salvage 2019 with a job driving for Carlin that started the second race of the season. However the group had its struggles, did not qualify for the Indianapolis 500 and O’Ward bolted for Europe when Pink Bull added him to its driver growth program in June.
O’Ward was entered in a single Components 2 race then Pink Bull moved him to Japan’s Tremendous Components class.
“I received signed by Pink Bull. They requested me to return to Austria like 5, six days earlier than the race,” O’Ward mentioned. “I didn’t know the automotive, didn’t know the group, didn’t know something. It was very difficult, clearly simply not realizing something.
“After which I received shipped off to Japan, a rustic that I had no thought about, the language and tradition.”
O’Ward cherished his 4 months in Japan and located the Tremendous Components vehicles “insane to drive,” however Pink Bull let him go on the finish of the season. Then issues received even crazier.
Sam Schmidt’s race group had been overhauled by way of a partnership with McLaren, and McLaren boss Zak Brown moved quick to seize O’Ward. To make room for O’Ward, the brand new Arrow McLaren SP group needed to fireplace James Hinchcliffe, one of the crucial in style drivers within the sequence.
Followers condemned the transfer however O’Ward and rookie Oliver Askew have answered the critics. Askew was the 2019 Indy Lights champion and changed Marcus Ericsson when McLaren got here aboard.
O’Ward by way of 9 races has not completed decrease than twelfth, was the highest-finishing rookie within the Indy 500 and ranks greater within the standings than three sequence champions and a slew of IndyCar veterans. Askew, who’s 23, has one podium end however has been hampered by the shortage of observe time in IndyCar’s revamped schedule. Askew is a pure rookie, whereas O’Ward made eight IndyCar begins earlier than this season.
They’ve elevated the Schmidt program and have labored collectively to enhance every race.
“We’ve a job and we race for the group. We’re not very egocentric individuals,” Askew mentioned. “Pato appears to be the form of driver who simply exhibits up and drives the wheels off the factor, and I believe I’ve to be slightly bit extra in-depth with what’s happening to change into profitable.
“I believe there’s simply two completely different approaches and we will feed off one another. It’s been a pleasure for positive. We’re persevering with to get alongside nicely and persevering with to construct our relationship.”
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