Pato O'Ward

A long day, a longer month and the heartbreak of failing to win another Indianapolis 500 presented by Gainbridge caught up with Pato O’Ward late Sunday at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

Before fully climbing from his No. 5 Arrow McLaren Chevrolet, the second-place finisher in the “500” lowered his head on his car and released everything within him.

“It was just very wet in there,” O’Ward said of the tears in his helmet. “I didn't want to take it off just yet. (I) just wanted to calm down a little bit.”

The popular 25-year-old driver had fought through so much in his latest trip to Indianapolis – an emotional rollercoaster, he said – and it began with the flu earlier in the month when fever consumed him for the better part of five nights. In the Monday practice following qualifying, O’Ward felt his car was simply too uncompetitive to entertain the thought of competing for a Sunday victory. After the first pit stop, he was 15th in the order.

And yet, roaring down the backstretch on the final lap, his chance to finally win “The Greatest Spectacle in Racing” evaporated.


It happened first in 2022 when Marcus Ericsson outran him to the checkered flag. Last year, O’Ward’s race ended hard against the Turn 3 wall on Lap 193 while trying to swipe second place from the reigning champion. And then there was Sunday, when he lost the lead to Josef Newgarden on the final lap.

So close only to see forever glory slip away.

“It’s hard to put it into words,” O’Ward said. “I’m proud of the work we did today. We recovered. We went back (in the order), we went forward, we went back. Some people were just driving like maniacs. We had so many near race-enders and were just so close again.

“So (freaking) close.”

O’Ward took the lead from Newgarden at the white flag and thought he could hold him off, but the Team Penske driver kept his foot down in Turn 3 and willed his way around the outside. O’Ward tried to fight back, but time was out. Their separation at the finish line was .3417 of a second – an eternity when it comes to placing a likeness on the Borg-Warner Trophy.

Instead of O’Ward, it will be Newgarden again in sterling silver.

“It's just heartbreaking,” O’Ward said. “Two corners short.”

O’Ward mentioned how drivers only get so many chances to win the “500,” and this was his fifth in succession. He finished sixth, fourth and second in his first three races before last year’s ended with crash damage.

Sunday became the 11th second-place finish of his still-young career. Six of those were following Newgarden to the checkered flag.

“I really thought that I did everything in my power to get it done,” O’Ward said of the win.

It was painful to watch O’Ward struggle with his emotions, but he said he was fine.

“So much goes into this race,” he said. “I think I'm somebody that wears my heart on my sleeve. I don't really hide anything. It's just when you've come so close and it just doesn't seem to -- you just can't seem to get it right, it's just a lot of emotion I would say.

“I think in a way I've cracked a code (at Indy), and I know how to position myself to win this race. I know I can win this race, and I know that I know how to also protect a good result when maybe the win isn't in the cards for me.”

Said Zak Brown, Arrow McLaren’s team principal: “Hold your head high. Obviously, a bit frustrating finishing second again. We’re going to get that win. It’s right around the corner.”

It took Newgarden 12 years to finally break through at IMS, and now he’s done it a second time 12 months later. Maybe it can happen for O’Ward. Scott Dixon, the 2008 winner and Sunday’s third-place finisher, thinks it can.

“I don’t think Pato could have done anything different apart from the timing (of his pass on Newgarden),” Dixon said. “He could have swapped it by a half lap and that would have changed it.

“But if he had not given (Newgarden) the room, they both would have crashed.”

Dixon understood O’Ward’s emotions. He, too, has finished second in the “500” – three times in fact.

“As I’ve said many times, finishing second is like finishing last at this place,” he said. “He’ll be fine. He’s got plenty of time on his hands.”