INDIANAPOLIS – After a rough IndyCar Grand Prix on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course and mechanical issues that hampered his Opening Day activities on Tuesday, Pato O’Ward is hopping back on the horse.
O’Ward, the 20-year-old Mexican driver who thrilled NTT IndyCar Series fans with his electric debut at Sonoma (Calif.) Raceway last fall, is making his Indianapolis 500 debut during the Month of May at the wheel of a third entry for team owner Trevor Carlin.
After finishing as the runner-up by .028 seconds to Colton Herta in last year’s Indy Lights Freedom 100 on the 2.5-mile IMS oval, O’Ward is motivated to
His excitement at being in the IndyCar Series paddock was palpable during a TV interview with NBC Sports Gold on Tuesday, as he awaited repairs to his No. 31 Dallara-Chevrolet following an early problem.
“It’s crazy to be here. I’ve been waiting for this moment for a while. Since last year in Indy Lights and being so close to winning (the Freedom 100), I’ve wanted to come back in the big one and show them up a bit. It’s been really exciting, even though we’ve had a tough start to the month in the Grand Prix.
“I’m excited to go full-send mode this week and I’m looking forward to this opportunity.”
O’Ward was unable to complete his rookie orientation program on Tuesday – a set of laps which is standard procedure for all first-time entrants to the Indianapolis 500 – due to the mechanical trouble he and his team endured.
As a result of that, O’Ward had to come back to the track early on Wednesday morning to get through the first two phases of the three-part course. With a repaired race car, O’Ward breezed through his ROP.
“It’s just kind of a relief, to be honest with you,” O’Ward said of completing his rookie orientation. “Yesterday, we couldn’t get it done because of some mechanical issues, so we fixed that … and the objective today is now to start testing our race setup and our qualifying setup. I know it looks like we have a lot of time, but it comes at you fast.
“It’s good to have the rookie orientation part behind us, and now we’re ready to get going for real.”
Because O’Ward hadn’t completed his rookie program by 3 p.m. on Tuesday afternoon, he was ruled ineligible to participate in the remainder of the day’s on-track activities.
Due to that situation, his teammate Max Chilton got behind the wheel of the No. 31 to shake it down, something O’Ward called “beneficial” for the team. He’s not worried about the loss of track time, either.
“The amount of track time we do have this month lets us be a lot more patient, I feel like,” O’Ward said. “You can analyze a lot more things with the time that we have, so I think that’s a positive. The goal was to get rookie orientation checked off, and we did that, so now we’re going to work on the car by itself and then with traffic later on … because those are really two different games.
“I think it was good for Max to check if the car was OK, and not risk the time that they gave us (Wednesday morning), because if we’d had problems then, everything would have just gone downhill after that,” he continued. “It was good to see the car running well and have it be ready now to roll on.”
While O’Ward could only muster a top lap of 40.7611 seconds (220.799 mph) during the 14 laps he did get in the Tuesday rookie and refresher session, he found quick pace on Wednesday and had posted a top speed of 226.441 mph (eighth-quick) as of 1 p.m. ET.
O’Ward will attempt to lock in to the field of 33 during first-day qualifications on Saturday.