Arrow McLaren took another major swing at the proverbial glass ceiling between the “Big Three” and the rest of the NTT INDYCAR SERIES, and it is beginning to show fractures after the team’s strength was showcased with all three drivers finishing among the top five in the GMR Grand Prix.
While Andretti Autosport, Chip Ganassi Racing and Team Penske have laid longtime claim as the three premier powerhouse organizations in the NTT INDYCAR SERIES, the continued rise of Arrow McLaren made another step toward expanding that group to a “Fantastic Four” at Saturday’s round on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course.
Pato O’Ward led the group with a runner-up result, his third in five races in 2023. Alexander Rossi, who came over from Andretti Autosport during the offseason, crossed the finish line third to capture his first podium with his new team. Felix Rosenqvist, somewhat fittingly, made a pass on Andretti Autosport’s Colton Herta with five laps left to grab fifth.
“Super stoked for the team,” said O’Ward, driver of the No. 5 Arrow McLaren Chevrolet. “We put three cars in the top five. Fricking hard to do in this series with how competitive it is. Just stoked for everybody in the organization, for our 5 crew.”
The only person ahead of O’Ward and Rossi was Chip Ganassi Raicng’s Alex Palou, who looked virtually untouchable for most of the 85-lap contest at the 2.439-mile, 14-turn road course.
“Historically this hasn't been the best of tracks for us,” O’Ward said. “So, this is awesome to see just the massive step forward we've taken here in race pace. Super happy to see that.”
Rossi, driver of the No. 7 Arrow McLaren Chevrolet, complimented the team’s ability to add a third car over the offseason, which also meant hiring a plethora of more personnel, and all while doing it “with relative ease.”
Arrow McLaren has been a strong team for quite a few seasons, with O’Ward driving to four wins for the organization and a very respectable finish of third in the championship standings back in 2021.
The team managed to lure technical ace Gavin Ward from Team Penske last year. His first race was at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course in July. Since then, Ward has taken the reigns as Arrow McLaren’s racing director, and made a profound impact, according to O’Ward.
“He has a very humored approach to everything,” O’Ward said. “I can say he's not only helped the team, but I have improved outside of the race car because of Gavin, just kind of having a different set of eyes that looks at things in a different way.
“At the end of the day, this is all a human sport. None of us are robots. We're all the ones that are putting in the work. That's what it takes. Sometimes it's important to know that we all need some rest and recharge sometimes. You can't always go full-on. What you need is you need to make sure you're in the position to do it when it counts, right?
“Just hats off to everybody that worked so hard in the offseason. There's countless guys and gals in the team that spend many hours in the offseason to find more lap time.”
After Ward saw the trio of drivers get their respective results, he remained on point of O’Ward’s timing stand but was all smiles.
"It's one of the better days overall for the organization,” Ward said. “We're pretty happy with it. A very good team day. You always want more; we'd take a 1-2-3. Hopefully, that's not too far off, but that's what we're gunning for."
And Ward isn’t bothered by the near-misses of standing on the top step of the podium, either.
"We’re not too fixated on the wins,” Ward said. “We’re playing the championship game. The wins will come. We'll focus on executing good races. Hey, man, if we keep getting pissed off being second, then it's going to be a good year. But if we had to choose a race to get a win, the next one is probably not a bad one.”
That next race is the 107th Running of the Indianapolis 500 presented by Gainbridge on May 28.
O’Ward nearly pulled off the victory by finishing second to Marcus Ericsson in last year’s edition of “The Greatest Spectacle in Racing,” while Rosenqvist came home fourth.
This year, the addition of Rossi, who won the event in 2016, provides a boost. That trio also will be joined by 2013 “500” winner Tony Kanaan, who will contest his final race in a one-off with the team. Kanaan and Rossi finished third and fifth, respectively, in last year’s race.
Knowing what Arrow McLaren just accomplished to start the Month of May provides a positive jolt as everyone transitions to the 2.5-mile superspeedway.
“It's a huge confidence boost for everybody,” Ward said. “This team is full of superstars and just getting people to realize the talent we've got and what we can achieve is good. It's good to give us confidence to run our program and ignore the noise as we run through the Month of May.”
Ward acknowledged the talent was already in place when he arrived at Arrow McLaren, so everything forward is about continuing to fine-tune the details.
“We are dead-set focused on just continuous improvement and enjoying going racing,” Ward said. “It's hard to put it down to one thing. In this sport, it's such small margins that you got to be good everywhere. So, we're just trying to do that.”