‘I wish to be their largest headache’ – O’Ward
There’s a deep divide that tends to separate the highest drivers every season within the NTT IndyCar Sequence championship. The champion would possibly run away and conceal within the level standings, or we’d have the main two or three drivers clustered collectively, however there’s at all times a cliff of types, the place somebody will get tantalizingly near the title, however not shut sufficient to be in competition for the championship.
That particular person was Pato O’Ward in 2020, as his Arrow McLaren SP group rose to prominence behind Chip Ganassi Racing, Group Penske, and Andretti Autosport within the title chase. Fourth on his full-season debut, the 2018 Indy Lights champion despatched discover to the established contenders that he’s able to vie for IndyCar’s Astor Cup, however to get there, closing the sizable hole to first will likely be required.
May the 21-year-old make that big leap in his second season with AMSP and displace the Scott Dixons, Josef Newgardens, and Colton Hertas who stood in his means final 12 months? The reply is sure, and to get there, the Mexican’s focused maturity, slightly than added aggression, because the pathway to a championship.
“I believe that the strategy is truthfully going to be like final 12 months, as a result of we did a very good job of taking what we may with scoring factors,” O’Ward informed RACER. “I believe what put us ending fourth and perhaps not just a little bit greater was that we left loads of factors on the desk and made a couple of errors. Each level is gold. Everyone knows that.
“Clearly, now we have a full 12 months below our belts — me and Arrow McLaren SP — working along with the engineers. They know what I like. I do know extra about simply the collection usually — out and in laps, pit stops, technique, simply every little thing that goes into the sport. However the mentality going into it is extremely much like final 12 months, simply figuring out what to anticipate just a little bit extra as a result of we’ve carried out it one-time round already.”
O’Ward welcomes former Ganassi driver and 2020 race winner Felix Rosenqvist to the group this 12 months. He additionally has the advantage of a deeper engineering collaboration between AMSP in Indianapolis and the McLaren Racing System 1 outfit in England that has resulted in spectacular speeds being demonstrated at quite a lot of pre-season assessments. Mixed along with his personal enhance in expertise, the motive force of the No. 5 Chevy is surrounded by every little thing he wants to enhance upon that fourth-place end.
“We certain as heck hope so!” he mentioned with amusing. “That’s positively the objective. We’ve been very fairly important in making the automotive higher in areas the place we all know that we’re missing, and we should be pretty much as good as we are able to beginning the season. And we should be combating on the entrance beginning the season. I believe very completely different to final 12 months, the place we went into the start of the 12 months with the mentality of, ‘Let’s take what we are able to and never be foolish.’
“We’re nonetheless going to have that on the again of our minds, however I really feel like this 12 months, now we have an opportunity to begin off the 12 months banging on the door of podiums and wins. That’s a distinction which, by the tip of the season, ought to assist your championship run as a result of that’s going to mean you can add up extra factors in the long run.”
O’Ward credit the immense effort he’s witnessed at AMSP to hopefully displace a Ganassi, Penske, Andretti — or all three — by the tip of the 12 months.
“What now we have now could be only a group of those who know what space or what path we should always go in the direction of heading to a sure observe and simply constructing on what we did final 12 months,” he mentioned. “Little particulars have been improved, and I believe that’s what’s been seen in testing. We’ve been fast, however everyone knows it’s simply testing. If we’re not combating for wins and podiums day in and day trip and all these kind of tracks that now we have on the calendar, I don’t assume anyone within the group goes to be comfortable as a result of an excessive amount of work has gone into it.”
If there’s a adverse for O’Ward to think about on the daybreak of a brand new season, it’s that he’s misplaced the ingredient of shock amongst his rivals. Most knew about his prodigious expertise, however O’Ward’s true potential was confirmed as 2020’s breakout IndyCar star. He’s earned a brand new degree of respect from his friends, and on the similar time, in addition they know what to anticipate from a driver who needs to take what they’ve.
“I really feel like while you consider every little thing that I went by in 2019 and every little thing that was simply so messy, up into the switch of being in IndyCar, it’s actually humbling to listen to that,” he mentioned. “I really feel actually happy with what the group and I achieved final 12 months. We positively surpassed expectations. So that is what I wish to hear.
“I wish to hear and I wish to see that they know that we’re pushing and we’re coming to compete towards them. We’re not right here to look at them win races and simply be comfortable for them. No, we wish to beat them. I wish to be their largest headache.”