NEWTON, Iowa – Patricio O’Ward put in a dominating flag-to-flag performance to win the Mazda Iowa 100 at Iowa Speedway.
The 19-year-old Texas-based Mexican started the 10th round of 2018 Indy Lights presented by Cooper Tires from pole position in the No. 27 Riverina CDMX Mexico City Mazda/Dallara IL-15 for Andretti Autosport and led all 100 laps on Sunday to collect his fourth victory of the season.
“I just tried to keep the gap steady,” O’Ward said. “They were telling me every lap. Once it got to 4.5 seconds, I said, ‘You know what? I’m done pushing. I want to win.’ So I just calmed it down a little bit. I knew they weren’t going to catch me, so I let off a little bit.
“It was a nice, comfortable win, for sure.”
Colton Herta (No. 98 Andretti-Steinbrenner Racing) started on the outside of teammate O’Ward on the front row, but quickly fell to third after Santi Urrutia (No. 5 Belardi Auto Racing) turned a stellar opening lap on the 0.894-mile oval to leap three spots from fifth.
The running order held as O’Ward mounted a comfortable four-second gap over his rivals. Herta started applying pressure on Urrutia for the runner-up spot with 30 laps to go. The duo battled closely until Herta got the better of the two-time series runner-up heading into Turn 3 with seven laps remaining.
“I got a good run, I think he made a little mistake in Turn 2,” Herta said. “I was able to get to the inside and keep him up in the corner, hold the position. From then on, I think we had the best car. We ran down Pato so quickly in those last five laps. I think if I did a better job trying to pass Santi early, I could have won the race.”
In the end, O’Ward finished 2.8258 seconds ahead of Herta, with Urrutia taking the final spot of the podium.
The battle for the Indy Lights title and $1 million Mazda scholarship to compete in the 2019 Verizon IndyCar Series season tightened with the result. O’Ward’s win closed him within eight points of Herta for the lead with seven races to go. Each has four wins. Urrutia is 49 points behind Herta.
Next up, the series heads to the streets of Toronto for a doubleheader weekend July 13-15.
“I will be strong in Toronto and I will be strong at Mid-Ohio (another doubleheader July 27-29),” O’Ward declared.
“So I’m looking to capitalize. A nice July sweep wouldn’t be bad.”