BIRMINGHAM, Ala. – Patricio “Pato” O’Ward is still working to secure a full-season drive with Team Pelfrey in the Pro Mazda Championship Presented by Cooper Tires, but he certainly aided his quest this weekend at Barber Motorsports Park by winning both 40-minute races which comprised the Mazda North American Operations Presents the Pro Mazda Grand Prix of Alabama.
Teammate Aaron Telitz chased O’Ward home for the third time in four races this season, while Garett Grist finished third for the second race in succession for Juncos Racing.
O’Ward took full advantage of his pole position, earned yesterday when he posted the fastest lap of the race, to lead the field into Turn One, where Telitz had to work hard to fend off the attentions of Grist. The Canadian was determined to break up the Team Pelfrey domination, and seemed to make a decisive move under braking for Turn Five, only for Telitz to fight back and maintain his second position. Farther back, Australian Jake Parsons (Juncos Racing) and Malaysian Weiron Tan, in a third Team Pelfrey car, tangled at the exit of Turn Four. Tan’s car was catapulted into a slow roll from which he was fortunate to emerge unscathed.
After three laps behind the Safety Car, O’Ward once again made his escape at the front of the field, leaving Telitz once again to hold off Grist for second. The two leaders quickly distanced themselves from their pursuers, trading fastest race lap as they did so. Telitz finally gained that honor – worth a championship point – but he had to be content with another second-place finish as O’Ward, from Monterrey, Mexico, took the victory by just over two seconds.
Grist earned another third-place result after edging clear of teammate Will Owen, who took home the Staubli Award along with a fourth-place finish – his best of the young season.
Frenchman Nico Jamin, last year’s winner of the Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda, finished just a second or so behind Owen in fifth following a race-long tussle with Cape Motorsports with Wayne Taylor Racing teammate Jake Eidson, who earned the Quarter Master Hard Charger Award after making up two positions during the 27-lap race.
O’Ward now leads Telitz by 122 points to 110 as the Pro Mazda Championship heads to Indianapolis, Ind., for the next two races as part of the Angie’s List Grand Prix of Indianapolis on May 12-14.
Patricio O’Ward (#80 Gap Guard-Team Pelfrey): “This weekend has been amazing, but really I’m trying to do what a driver is supposed to do best, and that’s win! Team Pelfrey has really helped me keep my head up and keep aiming for the championship. It’s great to be able to really show the speed that we have, first getting up to the front from fourth [yesterday] and then today, to lead the whole way. It really shows our true colors. The whole team has stepped up their game big time and it definitely has paid off – I’m so happy for them because the wins Aaron and I have gotten are for them and for our supporters. We don’t have a secure season but we’re leading the championship and I’m optimistic about making something happen.”