Man, if you didn’t watch the last ten laps of the IndyCar race on Sunday, you really missed out on a truly amazing performance from 22-year-old Mexican phenomenon Patricio O’Ward. In fact, it’s so amazing, you just need to click play on the last ten minutes of the race (video below), because the guy just made the rest of the field look like fools. McLaren has come a long way from its DNQ with Fernando Alonso in the 2017 Indy 500.
O’Ward started the second race of the Belle Isle Grand Prix weekend from 16th on the grid and ran an astonishing pace for the entire race, diligently moving up through the pack. A late race caution bunched up the pack and Pato managed to throw a flyer down the inside of Scott Dixon. A couple laps later another set up an eight lap dash to the flag with the young Mexican sitting fifth with a good set of tires under him. As the flag went green he threw an identical pass down the inside at turn one on Graham Rahal and then set about running to the front.
Twice IndyCar champ Josef Newgarden ran at the front of the race for the full event, but was on well worn tires in the closing stages of the Detroit Grand Prix (race 2) and O’Ward jumped at the chance to pass him with just two laps remaining. Not only did Patricio score his second win of the season, but he took the lead of the championship points standings as well.
It’s been a hot minute since I’ve seen a truly great season of IndyCar, but this year is shaping up to be a monster one. This is a close season, and I expect it to rage on for the next eight races.
The season has only just reached its halfway point, as Sunday’s event was the eighth race in a 16-race season, but O’Ward has set himself apart as the only driver to win two races thus far. And coincidentally, he’s managed to get both of his wins on the second race of a double-header weekend, securing his first win in IndyCar back at the Texas oval on May 2nd.
I know I’m not alone in recognizing O’Ward’s talent, but I truly think he’s on for a championship bid this year. While he currently only has a one-point lead over Chip Ganassi Racing’s Alex Palou, and it’s for sure going to be a knock-down drag-out fight as the season rages on, I’m ready to put on my Arrow McLaren SP hat and cheer for the kid as the season ends with a dramatic three-weekends-in-a-row fight in Portland, Laguna Seca, and Long Beach.
Surely Schmidt Peterson have been working for years to develop this kind of program, and money and engineering from an F1 team like McLaren have surely helped. At the start of the season I didn’t really expect the Arrow McLaren SP team to be joining Ganassi, Penske, and Andretti at the front, but here we are. During the closing stages of Pato’s inaugural win in Texas I sent a text to a friend that read “Shit, Pato might have the start of a title run on his hands right here” and I hope that text stands as prescient when the season ends in September.
“The biggest thing about Detroit is, it’s a second win,” Arrow McLaren SP president Taylor Kiel told Racer.com. “The first one at Texas, we earned it, and we were the class of the field, and we won. And that’s great. And that was relieving. But this one is validating. This one says we’re doing the right things.
“To win twice in the series, where in eight races, we’re the first ones to repeat as winners in an ultra-competitive series… it’s extremely hard. Our goal is to is to be championship material. And that’s what we’re working towards.”
Championship material indeed. I can’t wait to see how the rest of this season unfolds.