TORONTO — With light rain coming down late and championship contenders ending their races early on Saturday, Patricio O’Ward came through to win his fifth Indy Lights presented by Cooper Tires race of the season and claim the points lead.
O’Ward led from the beginning on the Exhibition Place temporary street course after Andretti-Steinbrenner Racing’s Colton Herta had a slow start and fell to fourth place before the first corner on the opening lap. O’Ward, in the No. 27 Andretti Autosport Mazda/Dallara IL-15, never lost the lead after that.
Herta, who sustained a non-displaced fracture in his left thumb when he crashed into a tire barrier at the end of qualifying earlier in the day, charged back to second place and had his sights set on catching O’Ward until he lost control of the No. 98 Deltro Energy entry after driving over curbing in Turn 5 and veering into the wall. Herta complained of pain in the thumb after the race crash and will be re-evaluated by the INDYCAR medical staff on Sunday to determine if he will be cleared to drive in the second Indy Lights race of the weekend.
Rain began to fall under the full-course caution for Herta’s incident. After the restart, Santi Urrutia passed Belardi Auto Racing teammate Aaron Telitz for second place. Urrutia was chasing down O’Ward until he spun on Lap 31 and dropped to fourth place. The Uruguayan passed Ryan Norman (Andretti Autosport) for third and was focused on second-place Victor Franzoni (Juncos Racing) when Franzoni slid into the same Turn 5 wall where Herta had crashed earlier.
The race ended under caution, giving O’Ward the win over Urrutia, Norman, Telitz and Ontario native Dalton Kellett in fifth place.
O’Ward was pleased with the win and the composure he maintained when Herta was trying to catch him.
“I didn’t want to go too over my head when he was catching up,” said O’Ward. “Because you go just a little bit over the edge here and you’re going to shunt it in the wall. I was pushing but I wasn’t going risk it.
“I’d rather get a second and just get the points and then try to beat him next time. I just tried to keep it calm, not let the pressure get to me and he was catching up pretty fast.”
But with Herta crashing out, O’Ward turned an eight-point deficit in the Indy Lights standings into an eight-point lead heading into Sunday’s race (12:25 p.m. ET, live stream on RaceControl.IndyCar.com).
“I was looking forward to carrying more momentum into the end of the season by starting to win again, and this is a great start to that,” O’Ward said.
Following an eventful race, Urrutia was happy to take second place.
“I wasn’t quick in the dry condition,” he said. “But I was aggressive coming from behind and passed a lot of people with aggressive moves. When Colton hit the wall I said, ‘OK, this might be my chance,’ and then it started raining and I said ‘OK, great, go for it!’
“I just passed Aaron on the outside of Turn 3 and I was half a second quicker than Pato, and then I spun and said, ‘Oh man, what an idiot!’”