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IndyCar St. Petersburg

Another year, another IndyCar St. Pete runner-up for Pato O’Ward

For the second consecutive year, Pato O’Ward began the IndyCar Series season with a runner-up result on the Streets of St. Petersburg.

Patricio O'Ward, Arrow McLaren Chevrolet

Photo by: Jake Galstad / Motorsport Images

Although no one appeared to have the pace to keep up with Josef Newgarden, who led 92 of 100 laps en route to a Team Penske 1-3-4, O’Ward’s No. 5 Arrow McLaren was lurking for the majority of the race before fading late to finish 7.9121s at the checkered flag.

The 24-year-old Mexican, who now has three runner-up results in five starts on the 1.8-mile, 14-turn temporary street circuit, held steady in the rearview mirrors of Newgarden for 63 of the last 65 laps.

Unlike last year, when a momentary mechanical gremlin was enough to demolish O’Ward’s race lead with four laps to go, Sunday – and even Saturday when he qualified third – properly showcased the improvements in overall speed, according to Arrow McLaren Team Principal Gavin Ward.

“Well, I think Pato should be - and I know he will be - really happy with this performance all weekend,” Ward told Autosport.

“He didn't put a foot wrong and arguably outperformed our capability. I think the No. 5 car did everything right on the timing stand. These guys (pointing to the pit crew) did a great job as well to execute a very clean weekend. That situation at the end there, he managed it perfectly, super calm. That's what we want.

“The way the race ran with a caution kind of neutering strategies, that first caution (on lap 27) really put everybody in the same boat apart from a couple of people who were doing different things in tyre order. It meant that our guys that didn't qualify very well, it was always going to be a hard slog here when you don't qualify well, but that made it even harder.

“I think last year we ended up in a position to win because a lot of people in front of us put a foot wrong and then it didn't go our way at the end of the day. But this year, you know, fully deserve to be where we were.”

O’Ward, who now has eight podiums – which includes five runner-ups – since his last win at Iowa Speedway in 2022 (Race 2), shared a similar sentiment during the post-race media availability.

“It really is tough,” O’Ward said.

“As we saw (Sunday), mistakes will -- you're going to have to pay some if you're going to be making mistakes, and that's what you don't want to be doing.”

 

This result helps establish a strong foundation for the rest of O’Ward’s season, which he noted the importance of since the hybrid power unit will debut sometime after the 108th Running of the Indianapolis 500 on May 26.

“With the hybrid coming in halfway through the season, you've got to be on it,” said O’Ward, a four-time race winner in IndyCar.

“There's no room for error because you need to leave those Joker cards for mishaps that could happen when you introduce something new. “I think there's no room for error anymore because the guys that you're competing against are also winning races, and when they're not winning races, they're on the podium. This is where we have to be, and this is where we have to maintain ourselves.

“I think we just keep approaching it like we have and be aware of who we're racing and what we can accomplish each and every weekend.”

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