INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – Patricio “Pato” O’Ward is on a roll. The Mexican teenager might still be competing on a race-by-race basis in the Pro Mazda Championship Presented by Cooper Tires due to budgetary concerns, but he continued his impressive start to the season for Team Pelfrey by scoring a clear victory this afternoon at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Grand Prix road course. O’Ward’s fourth victory in five starts came in the first of two races that will comprise the Pro Mazda Grand Prix of Indianapolis Presented by Cooper Tires.
Juncos Racing pair Will Owen, from Castle Rock, Colo, and Jake Parsons, from Melbourne, Australia, completed the podium.
Merely one week after his 17th birthday, Monterrey, Mexico native O’Ward qualified comfortably on pole position during qualifying this morning and was never seriously challenged during the 40-minute race. He made an exemplary start to lead into the first corner, watched in his mirrors as teammate Aaron Telitz made a mistake on the opening lap, then romped clear of the field before taking the checkered flag some 6.8509 seconds clear of Owen.
The battle for second place lasted only until halfway around the first lap when Telitz, who started second, experienced a dramatic slide in the Turn Five/Six chicane which allowed Owen to challenge down the ensuing straightaway leading into a tight left-handed corner at Turn Seven. Telitz tried his best to defend the position but succeeded only in over-shooting the corner and running wide onto the grass, which dropped him almost to the tail of the field.
As O’Ward disappeared into the distance, Owen emerged in second ahead of teammates Parsons and Garett Grist. Owen, whose lone Mazda Road to Indy race win so far had come on the same Indianapolis road course two years ago in the Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda, drove a measured race to remain just a second or so clear of Parsons, with Canadian Grist a similar distance behind in fourth.
The two Cape Motorsports with Wayne Taylor Racing entries fielded by Jake Eidson and Nico Jamin, last year’s USF2000 champion, also were part of the battle, along with yet another Juncos machine driven by Argentinean rookie Nicolas Dapero.
A mistake by Jamin on the third lap saw the Frenchman lose a position to Dapero, although he redressed the balance on Lap Five, then ousted teammate Eidson from fifth place on Lap 11. Jamin’s recovery earned him the Quarter Master Hard Charger Award. Parsons secured the Staubli Award, while Bobby Eberle celebrated his switch to JDC MotorSports by scoring a commanding victory in the National Class over Bob Kaminsky (Kaminsky Racing, Inc.) and Jay Horak (M1 Racing).
Patricio “Pato” O’Ward (#80 Gap Guard-Team Pelfrey): “Finally, I’m a winner at Indy! I’m so happy to redeem myself for the bad weekend I had here last year. I really wanted to get the victories here – when you say “Indy” everyone knows the Indy 500 and the Speedway, it’s so cool to win here. It was a pretty dominant performance. Even though I was out in front, I kept pushing, because when you lay off is when you make mistakes. But that’s when the physical side of a driver comes out. It’s hard to be quick and to be consistent through a race. I did my job and the team did their job. I really appreciate the support from Mazda and Cooper Tires, and TopoChico and Gap Guard, which is why I’m here. These wins are going to them and to Team Pelfrey, because without them, I wouldn’t be on the top step of the podium this season.”