Pato O'Ward

Today’s question: Which winless NTT INDYCAR SERIES driver in 2023 is most likely to win this final stretch of three races, at World Wide Technology Raceway (Aug. 27), Portland International Raceway (Sept. 3) and WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca (Sept. 10)?

Curt Cavin: Most likely to win or most in need of a win? The latter is Arrow McLaren, which made a big investment by expanding to three full-time entries for this season. One of its drivers needs to break through and win one of the final three races or it will be a very long, agonizing offseason for Zak Brown and the Indianapolis-based organization. Given that, my choice to find victory lane is Pato O’Ward. He has won two races in each of the past two seasons, including a short-track win last year at Iowa Speedway, and I can’t see him going winless in 2023. He has the best chance to end Josef Newgarden’s three-year winning streak this weekend at World Wide Technology Raceway.

Joey Barnes: There is no denying the several drivers that need a win before this season comes to a close. The likes of reigning NTT INDYCAR SERIES champion Will Power top the list, along with the Andretti Autosport duo of Romain Grosjean – still searching for his maiden INDYCAR win – and Colton Herta. As Curt pointed out, the entire Arrow McLaren cast could use one, maybe none more so than Felix Rosenqvist just to break free of the shackles of miserable luck the past few years. For some reason, though, I keep circulating back to Graham Rahal as the one most likely to find Victory Lane. While I don’t expect Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing to be competitive at World Wide Technology Raceway this weekend, as it admittedly has more improvements to make with its oval program, the road course package has been stellar. Portland International Raceway has similarities to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course, a place Rahal had enough pace to win earlier in the month but “got Dixon-ed” as did the rest of the field. Combined that with RLL previously winning at Portland (with Takuma Sato in 2018) and Rahal finishing fifth there last year, I very much expect him to be in the fight to break a win drought that extends to 2017.

Paul Kelly: Man, this is a tough call in my mind between Pato O’Ward and Colton Herta, both of whom remain inexplicably winless this season. O’Ward has the best recent results of any driver at World Wide Technology Raceway who never has won at the 1.25-mile oval, with finishes of third, second, second and fourth in his last four starts there. But he will need to beat the oval juggernaut known as Josef Newgarden, who has won the last five circle-track races in the series dating back to the WWTR event last August. That’s a mighty tall task. Herta dominated at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca in 2021, winning the race from the pole and leading 91 of 95 laps. He also won there in 2019 after leading 83 of 90 laps. But current championship leader Alex Palou was even more magisterial last year at Laguna, winning by 30.3812 seconds in an epic beatdown that doesn’t happen often in this series. And it’s almost certain Palou will have no pressure at the season finale, as he should clinch his second championship in three seasons either this weekend at WWTR or next weekend at Portland. So, beating Palou at Laguna is a big ask, too. Still, Herta has two career victories at Laguna while O’Ward has none at WWTR, so I’ll side with Herta as the most likely to notch a win before the season ends.