TORONTO, Ontario — Putting together a pair of solid runs on both days of the Honda Indy Toronto, Patricio O’Ward was able to take over the points lead in the Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires Championship.
On Saturday, he took the race lead from Andretti Autosport teammate Colton Herta on the start, pacing the rest of the laps en route to the checkered flag.
“It’s a crucial win,” he told POPULAR OPEN WHEEL. “It’s super important for me to get some good momentum coming to the end of the season. So far, it’s been well starting in Iowa so I’m looking forward to keeping it the same.”
It wasn’t easy, though, as rain coming down during the second half of the event made for slippery track conditions, which cost some of his competitors.
“It was a little nervousness, pressure – mix of emotions because it was tough out there, especially on the concrete patches,” he said. “I was just trying to keep it clean and not do the same mistake I made in St. Pete.”
The second race saw him fall in line in second behind Santiago Urrutia on the start, where he’d remain for the remainder of the event. The race proved crucial in his title hopes as Herta ran three laps before parking due to a thumb injury suffered in a qualifying crash.
“Even if Colton was running, I wanted to be smart that race,” he said. “I wanted to make sure to not put the car in danger. So I just tried to get a clean start. I got beside Santi a couple times, but I had to fend off Aaron (Telitz) because he was charging. We’d close up, and then get a gap, close up, and then get a cap. All in all, for me, it was a smart race and I’ve come out really happy this weekend.”
The success he was able to sustain showcased his talent behind the wheel, as the driver of the No. 27 Mazda openly stated that the Toronto weekend is one of the hardest of the season, no matter the conditions.
“The first four or five laps, I’ve never felt this track so slippery,” he said. “It was like ice. Santi was in front of me and he was all over the place; I knew Aaron was struggling behind me, as well. I was struggling, especially to get onto the power. Especially in turn five and eight where you could see the firestone rubber, but there was no grip at all. You’d get into the grip and just slide up. But once the tires heated up, they held on a little better. It was not an easy race.
“I think it’s the most difficult weekend that we’re going to go through the whole schedule. it’s super bumpy, super physical mentally – just everything about it. It really tests your mentalness.”
Following the back-to-back podiums, he will now head into Mid-Ohio SportsCar Course with an 18-point lead over Herta.
“I’m trying to make as much as I can of this opportunity,” he said. “You don’t get these everyday so when you get something like this, you have to take charge and make sure you capitalize when you can. I feel like the approach so far has been the perfect approach.”
If he is able to hold on and be crowned series champion at the end of the season, he would earn a scholarship from Mazda that grants him three starts in the Verizon IndyCar Series, including the Indianapolis 500. O’Ward said it’d mean everything as that’s “what I’ve been working for my whole life so it’d be exciting if I got that.”
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