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Pato O’Ward Prepared for Chevrolet Detroit Grand Prix

Pato O'Ward

Pato O’Ward hopes to have a different story to tell in Sunday’s Chevrolet Detroit Grand Prix. (Photo: Katherine Miller | The Podium Finish)

DETROIT — Pato O’Ward has the heart of a champion even after a heartbreaking, emotional runner-up in last Sunday’s 108th Indianapolis 500. As much as the defeat stung for the 25-year-old Monterrey, Mexico, native, his focus is now on Sunday’s Chevrolet Detroit Grand Prix on the Streets of Detroit.

Last year, O’Ward qualified 10th before an early race crash eliminated him to a 26th place DNF or Did Not Finish. Ahead of Saturday’s qualifying session, the popular racer was optimistic about his chances particularly with it being a hometown race for the manufacturer behind his No. 5 Arrow Dallara entry.

“This weekend we’re back on a street course, and it’s a challenging one,” O’Ward said in a Chevrolet press release. “It’s a big event for all of us, especially our friends over at Team Chevrolet. We’re going to try and do our best for them and hopefully have a good reason to celebrate at the end of this weekend.”

The sting may be taking some time to ease for O’Ward and his Arrow McLaren comrades. However, for Gavin Ward, team principal, it is about moving forward with their determined driver lineup ahead of a new month of races starting at Detroit.

“Even though the results from last weekend are still a bit fresh, we have very little time to dwell on those – we have a race to get ready for this Sunday,” Ward said in a team press release. “Detroit presents a great opportunity for us to build on the momentum we’ve created over the last couple weeks, especially considering how competitive we were there last year when we placed two cars in the top five.

“Pato and Alexander [Rossi], and frankly everyone here at Arrow McLaren, are excited to get back out on track this weekend to fight for the win we were so close to last weekend, and we’re looking forward to welcoming Théo [Pourchaire] back for the remainder of the season.”

Pato O'Ward

Pato O’Ward has pace in his No. 5 Arrow McLaren Dallara Chevrolet entry for Sunday’s Chevrolet Detroit Grand Prix. (Photo: Christopher Vargas | The Podium Finish)

Prior to Saturday’s qualifying rounds, O’Ward was the second fastest in Friday’s sole practice round before posting the 15th time in Saturday’s pre-qualifying session. Speeds may not be the best indicator of success given the tight corners and throng of drivers on track with different agendas.

Still, O’Ward was upbeat with his car’s potential and the experience he gained from last year’s treacherous action on the street circuit.

“It’s better than last year,” O’Ward said. “We got laps in, you know? We’ve still got some work to do. It’s tricky out there. It really is. There’s a lot of bumps, and it’ll be very important to get the window right on the car in qualifying just because those bumps can kind of throw you off in sequence quite quickly. It’ll just ruin your lap, so you have to be pretty precise.”

O’Ward advanced from his his group’s Group 1 qualifying effort, transferring as the fifth of 14 fastest drivers. All appeared to be in good order before things got tight in a hurry at the 1.645-mile, nine-turn street circuit in “The Motor City.”

Pato O'Ward

Some sense and sensibility may have cost Pato O’Ward during qualifying, but he has a fast car for Sunday’s race. (Photo: Wayne Riegle | The Podium Finish)

“I was trying to get out of the way,” O’Ward explained to NBC Sports’ Marty Snider. “Honestly, we shouldn’t have even transferred into Q2 just cause, I mean, I was in Felix’s gearbox and everybody’s trying to gap. But then there’s car on flyers that would come out before the sequence, I guess. You can’t back up because then you’d mess up their lap. But then you also can’t speed up cause then you’re gonna mess up your own chance to get a lap in.

“[Kyle] Kirkwood was coming behind me and I knew there was still going to be a stack up later on after Turn 5. So, I decided to give him room here because it was probably the best area to give him a chance and not give him a penalty.”

A bit of sensibility with situational awareness may pay dividends on race day. Regardless, it did not ease some of his frustrations following his qualifying attempt.

Pato O'Ward

Anything is possible for Pato O’Ward ahead of Sunday’s Chevrolet Detroit Grand Prix. (Photo: Wayne Riegle | The Podium Finish)

“Sadly, these cars don’t have rear wheel steering,” he observed. “So, I couldn’t get the radius done and then I stalled the car whenever I tried to get it back into neutral. I know why we get sent out like that cause we had a front left brake on fire. Get a fan on the thing. Let’s not screw ourselves in the process.”

Although O’Ward starts 12th for the 100-lap race, he knows he has a fast car. Ultimately, it boils down to a cool minded approach to contend for his second win of the NTT INDYCAR Series season and five-time series race winner.

“It’s been fine,” he insisted. “It’s a new week. It’s a new race weekend. I think we had an opportunity to get into the Fast Six. It’s just so tight. You can’t be playing around with gaps. You’re either gonna give up with an extra lap but just get three clean laps. Or you’re going to end up like me or [Will] Power. That’s how it is.”

Rob Tiongson is a sports writer and editor originally from the Boston area and resides in the Austin, Texas, area. Tiongson has covered motorsports series like NASCAR and INDYCAR since 2008 and NHRA since 2013. Most recently, Tiongson is covering professional basketball, mainly the WNBA, and women's college basketball. While writing and editing for The Podium Finish, Tiongson currently seeks for a long-term sportswriting and sports content creating career. Tiongson enjoys editing and writing articles and features, as well as photography. Moreover, he enjoys time with his family and friends, traveling, cooking, working out and being a fun uncle or "funcle" to his nephew, niece and cat. Tiongson is an alum of Southern New Hampshire University with a Bachelor of Arts in Communication and St. Bonaventure University's renowned Jandoli School of Communication with a Master of Arts in Digital Journalism.

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