O’Ward snatches maiden win in Texas


03 May 2021

Credit: Joe Skibinski/IndyCar Media

Pato O’Ward became the fourth different winner from four races as he claimed his maiden IndyCar victory at Texas Motor Speedway.

The Arrow McLaren driver took the lead with 24 laps of 248 to go, having overhauled main protagonists Scott Dixon and Graham Rahal in the final round of pit stops.

Dixon, who led more laps than anyone else, started the race from pole by virtue of qualifying being abandoned due to Saturday’s rain and points standings setting the field.

After dominating Saturday night’s race, he had to wait to get into his familiar position at the front of the field on Sunday, as a six-car pileup triggered by Pietro Fittipaldi brought out the caution flag before the rear of the field had even crossed the line to start lap one.

The incident also claimed Conor Daly, who rolled his Carlin Chevrolet machine, Dalton Kellett, Ed Jones, Alexander Rossi, and Sebastien Bourdais who suffered his second retirement in as many days.

When the race finally got underway proper, Dixon proved untouchable at first, leading the first 71 laps before being the first driver to pit.

For the second stint Dixon began to save fuel, and that allowed Graham Rahal to close in. He snatched the top spot as they began lap 141, but Dixon returned to the fore 12 laps later as both Honda runners worked to make their fuel last.

Chevrolet-powered O’Ward had less of a challenge in that regard and was able to stay with the lead pair until lap 186 when they both pitted. O’Ward however remained out for another lap, the overcut working perfectly as he emerged ahead of both Dixon and Rahal.

Rahal made an unsuccessful attempt to repass O’Ward on lap 189, and a lap later the caution flag flew once again as Felix Rosenqvist in the other Arrow Mclaren entry emerged from the pit without a right rear wheel.

Credit: Chris Jones/IndyCar Media

Amid all that was going on, Penske’s Josef Newarden snuck into the pits just before the yellow came out. That perfect timing handed him the advantage over O’Ward, although both remained behind Takuma Sato who hadn’t made his final scheduled stop by that point.

Once the race resumed on lap 197, Newgarden and O’Ward quickly disposed of Sato, and just 27 laps later O’Ward was back past Newgarden at the head of the field.

From there he built up an unassailable lead, heading the two-time champion by 1.5 seconds as they hit the 10 to go mark.

O’Ward eventually crossed the line 1.25s ahead of Newgarden, claiming his team’s first win since 2018 (when it was in its previous guise of Schmidt Peterson Motorsports), and McLaren’s first IndyCar win since 1979. It was also engine supplier Chevrolet’s first victory of the season, after O’Ward missed out on winning the season opener thanks to a strategy blunder.

Per a pre-season bet made with McLaren boss Zak Brown, O’Ward is now set to test for the marque’s F1 team in Abu Dhabi later this year as a reward for getting his first win on the board.

Rahal took third ahead of Dixon, with St. Petersburg victor Colton Herta fifth after a hard-charging run from 10th on the grid.

Simon Pagenaud took sixth ahead of Barber winner Alex Palou while three-time Supercars champion Scott McLaughlin once again impressed to take his second-straight top-10 finish with eighth. Rinus VeeKay and Ryan Hunter-Reay rounded out the top-10, ahead of oval specialist Ed Carpenter and Marcus Ericsson.

Will Power found himself down in 13th after a brush with the wall on the final restart, while Jack Harvey who spent much of the first part of the race battling in the top-five once again retired with a wheel bearing failure on lap 117, an issue almost identical to the one that ended Herta’s race on Saturday.

Xpel 375 results

1. (4) Pato O’Ward, Chevrolet, 248, Running
2. (6) Josef Newgarden, Chevrolet, 248, Running
3. (9) Graham Rahal, Honda, 248, Running
4. (1) Scott Dixon, Honda, 248, Running
5. (10) Colton Herta, Honda, 248, Running
6. (8) Simon Pagenaud, Chevrolet, 248, Running
7. (2) Alex Palou, Honda, 248, Running
8. (7) Scott McLaughlin, Chevrolet, 248, Running
9. (12) Rinus VeeKay, Chevrolet, 248, Running
10. (21) Ryan Hunter-Reay, Honda, 248, Running
11. (19) Ed Carpenter, Chevrolet, 248, Running
12. (13) Marcus Ericsson, Honda, 248, Running
13. (3) Will Power, Chevrolet, 248, Running
14. (11) Takuma Sato, Honda, 247, Running
15. (20) Tony Kanaan, Honda, 246, Running
16. (17) Felix Rosenqvist, Chevrolet, 246, Running
17. (5) Jack Harvey, Honda, 115, Mechanical
18. (22) James Hinchcliffe, Honda, 30, Mechanical
19. (14) Sebastien Bourdais, Chevrolet, 0, Contact
20. (15) Alexander Rossi, Honda, 0, Contact
21. (16) Pietro Fittipaldi, Honda, 0, Contact
22. (18) Ed Jones, Honda, 0, Contact
23. (23) Dalton Kellett, Chevrolet, 0, Contact
24. (24) Conor Daly, Chevrolet, 0, Contact