Sunday saw Arrow McLaren SP’s Patricio O’Ward clinch victory at the Texas Motor Speedway, his first IndyCar win – and with it, a chance to drive at the F1 Young Drivers Test in Abu Dhabi.
O’Ward had been in incredible form all weekend, coming off the back of a podium at the Genesys300. With 50 laps to go, O’Ward looked set to take the lead of the race when teammate Felix Rosenqvist brought out the final caution following a pitstop in which his right rear tyre failed to attach.
However, Josef Newgarden could not have timed the undercut better. He was in pit-road as the caution was brought out and emerged ahead of Scott Dixon, Graham Rahal, and O’Ward who had been battling all evening.
On the restart, Newgarden made it past Takuma Sato who was still yet to pit, however so too did his nearest rivals. Behind them, O’Ward made quick work of Graham Rahal to move up to second.
Newgarden failed to pull away from the attacking group and came under relentless pressure but it was with 20 Laps to go where the race was won. O’Ward, with steely determination, kept the accelerator planted into Turn 3 and seized the lead of the race.
O’Ward, who prior to this had come second on three occasions, finally broke the duck as he charged on to take the chequered flag, 1.5s ahead of Josef Newgarden.
Pato becomes the first Mexican to win in the American series since Adrian Fernandez at the Auto Club Speedway, 2004. Additionally, this marks McLaren’s first win since their return to IndyCar and the first since Johnny Rutherford at the Atlanta Motor Speedway, 1979.
As an extra reward, McLaren CEO Zak Brown will give O’Ward an opportunity to drive for the McLaren F1 Team at the post-season, Abu Dhabi Young Drivers Test.
Graham Rahal had been in the mix all race pulling off some audacious moves and benefitting massively during the earlier caution brought on by Meyer Shank driver Jack Harvey. Havey had been running in the top five, even overtaking IndyCar champion Will Power in the process until a wheel-bearing failure forced the car into the pits – leaving oil all over the road.
Rahal and Power, who had pitted earlier were able to jump a number of cars – including Newgarden – as the field collectively pitted under yellow. The Rahal Letterman Lanigan driver found himself in fifth. Despite both drivers being taken by O’Ward on the restart, Rahal fought bravely against Scott Dixon who had led from pole.
During the final pit stop and caution which was brought out by Felix Rosenqvist, Dixon held on to his advantage over Rahal. But back on track Rahal eventually cleared the Genesys300 winner to take his first podium of the season.
Colton Herta had a brilliant race – starting way down the field after an unfortunate brake issue forced him to retire from the Genesys300. Herta made great use of the undercut pulling off a great move on Simon Pagenaud to take fifth.
Alex Palou, who had started on the front row lost a lot of position after Jack Harvey’s caution. Like yesterday, the Spaniard never looked like he was going to trouble his six-time champion teammate. Despite finishing in seventh, it rounds off a decent weekend for the Barber Motorsport Park winner who finished inside the top ten in both races.
Scott McLaughlin followed up his maiden podium with an eighth-place, well ahead of Rinus VeeKay and Ryan Hunter-Reay, who rounded out the top-10.
Power had been in the battle at the front, but having dropped back slightly by the time of the final restart, but came off worst in the three-wide battle as Herta passed Pagenaud.
The Australian was pushed wide onto the high side and crucially – into the slippery ‘PJ1’ section. The Penske driver veered uncontrollably wide, hitting the barrier and finished down in 13th behind Ed Carpenter and Marcus Ericsson.
Takuma Sato, who decided to try the overcut came up short. After briefly leading after the final pit stops he eventually would eventually fall down to 14th
However, the most dramatic moment of the race came during Lap 1 in the form of a horrendous seven-car pile-up. As the field concertinaed, Pietro Fittipaldi was caught out by the late braking of AJ Foyt’s Sebastien Bourdais. His Dayle Coyne entry sent both drivers into a spin collecting: Ed Jones, Alexander Rossi, Dalton Kellett, Tony Kanaan, and Conor Daly in the process. Daly found himself upside down in a scary moment for the Carlin driver but was left relatively unscathed.
Scott Dixon leaves Texas with the lead of the championship while Patricio O’Ward sits 22 points behind. Alex Palou has slipped to third while Newgarden continues his relentless charge up to fourth.
IndyCar gets back underway at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway on the 15th May for the GMR Grand Prix.