Pato O’Ward was stunned when told his weekend teammate was driving an Indy car for the first time for a team other than Team Penske since Oct. 31, 1999.
O’Ward was born on May 6, 1999, but six months after his birth, Helio Castroneves was driving an Indy car for Hogan Racing at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, Calif.
“Wow,” O’Ward said. “When you put those stats into words, and then you see Scott Dixon and he was in Indy Lights in 1999 and 2000, that’s like me thinking I’ll be racing with Scott Dixon’s son in 20 years.
“I think that’s so cool, though, because we have veterans, sort of veterans and rookies in the series this year.”
O’Ward’s teammate at Arrow McLaren SP for the INDYCAR Harvest GP presented by GMR is Castroneves, who raced exclusively for Team Penske from 2000 through the 104th Indianapolis 500 on Aug. 23. Castroneves is filling in for the injured Oliver Askew this weekend, but for O’Ward, it’s a tremendous opportunity to learn from one of the great drivers of the past generation.
“I’m excited to have Helio alongside of me,” O’Ward said. “He’s a guy I’ve looked up to as a kid, and it’s cool to be working with a legend of the sport.
“My ears and eyes are going to be open. I want to learn as much as I can this weekend and deliver the best package of points to the team this weekend as possible.”
Both Arrow McLaren SP cars struggled in the first race of the doubleheader. Castroneves finished 20th, O’Ward 22nd.
O’Ward’s finish, coupled with Colton Herta’s fourth-place finish, dropped him to fourth in the standings with two races to go. The season’s penultimate race is Saturday at 2:30 p.m. (ET) on NBC. The Pennzoil INDYCAR Radio Network will have the radio call.
Although O’Ward is not considered a rookie -- this is his first full season in INDYCAR -- and he has lived up to the high expectations from winning the Indy Lights championship in 2018.
O’Ward was supposed to have his first full season in 2019 with what was then Harding Steinbrenner Racing, but sponsorship factors forced him to change teams before that season ever started. He drove a partial schedule for Carlin after that before joining Red Bull’s development program last summer.
O’Ward returned to INDYCAR when McLaren joined forces with Arrow Schmidt Peterson to create Arrow McLaren SP.
This has given the talented driver from Mexico a chance to live up to his promise and potential.
“It proves to everything you’ve been working for your whole life and career,” he said. “It was never a loss of faith in myself. I knew I could achieve it; I just needed a full season in the car to do it. These guys at Arrow McLaren SP have worked really hard in the offseason this year. It’s been funky with very little practice times. We have shown we are contenders. We are there to win races and challenge for podiums and we want to challenge for the championship.
“We’re not close enough to the championship this year, but next year we are going to be going to repeat what we did this year even better. We’ll have more experience, and I’ll have more experience.”