DETROIT — Pato O’Ward ended an emotional weekend for Arrow McLaren SP by becoming IndyCar’s first repeat winner with a victory dedicated to his injured teammate.
The Felix Rosenquist doubleheader was injured in a violent accident in the first race of the weekend and was hospitalized overnight. O’Ward called his teammate on Sunday morning and promised to win another race for him.
“I’m a man of my word, I wanted to get it done for him,” O’Ward said. “I really wanted to get it because (Saturday) there were so many mixed feelings. I consider Felix very close, and it’s not a good feeling to watch.”
O’Ward picked up Graham Rahal in the first turn, then Alex Palu in the second turn.
Two down, two to go.
He next caught Colton Herta, leaving only two-time IndyCar champion Newgarden in his sight. O’Ward caught him in Turn 7 with a little more than two laps to go, and Newgarden used his experience to drive O’Ward to the marbles.
O’Ward said, “He knew where to put me so that I couldn’t get to him, but I didn’t move.”
Wheel to wheel they fought and even touched cars. “I think whenever there’s a little bit of trash around it just makes it more exciting,” O’Ward said with a smile.
He completed the pass and walked away to beat Newgarden by 6.7595 seconds, confident he never crossed the line between clean racing and aggressively chasing victory and the IndyCar championship.
“In my mind, the two guys I’m fighting the championship with are in front of me, and I wouldn’t be happy if we finished behind them,” O’Ward said. “So if I got the chance I was going to strike. I just had to make sure every strike wasn’t like, ‘Oh, am I going to get this?’ It had to be ‘Boom, sure.’ Once you’re in, it’s yours. I felt like I cleaned it up a lot.”
O’Ward, who won his first career win last month, took a one-point lead over Palau in the championship standings. He has now won on an oval and a street course, and he finished third Saturday for two podiums in Detroit.
McLaren Racing CEO Zack Brown promised O’Ward, a Formula One test, to his first IndyCar victory. Asked what he gets for two wins, O’Ward looked nervously at Arrow McLaren SP president Taylor Keel.
“I know what a championship will give me,” he said. “Maybe I’ll share whenever I win a championship.”
O’Ward took off his shoes after the podium presentation and walked to the James Scott Memorial Fountain, where he splashed fans who had gathered along the park landmark.
After that his entire team joined him.
“I think it’s the right drug,” Keel said. “Felix’s accident is shocking. It’s shocking to watch. It makes everyone stomach sick. Like we did, it’s huge, and it’s going to boost the morale of the group.”
Newgarden led 67 of 70 laps before O’Ward knocked him down and finished him in second place. Team Penske remains winless on the season and Newgarden doesn’t know why – teammate Will Power locked out the win on Saturday until his electronic control unit overheated during a late red-flag stoppage and his car will not start again.
“If I had the answer, I would be doing it,” Newgarden said. “It’s just not aligned. You don’t get everything to line up perfectly. I think we have a lot of the materials right. I don’t think we really need to change much, just our keep working.”
Palu finished third for Chip Ganassi Racing, who won the IndyCar race on Saturday with Marcus Ericsson’s win and then a first for the Cadillac sports car team at IMSA with Ranger van der Zande and Kevin Magnussen.
Sunday’s IndyCar race was far less eventful than Saturday’s, when Rosenquist’s crash caused a nearly 90-minute red flag and subsequent halt that ultimately led to the race’s decision.
This time it was a Newgarden runaway until Romain Grosjean made a late caution with brake fire and tried to pull himself out. His car stalled on the track and panicked the French man killed in a fire last November during a Formula One race in Bahrain.
Small flames erupted from his right tire and he quickly climbed out of the car, then desperately sought the security team for assistance. Grosjean ran to the fence and grabbed a fire extinguisher from a race marshal, who passed it through a hole and drove back to his car, with black smoke rising from the front.
The security truck arrived just as Grosjean was running toward his car, with the extinguisher on, but was pushed aside by professionals. He appeared dismayed as he handed the pin from the firefighter to the worker, but was changed to an honorary Detroit Fire Department shirt after the race.
“Eventually we had brake fire, and I had to put out the fire, but we’re all good here,” he said.
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