Pato O'Ward

“A proper win” is how Pato O’Ward described it Sunday at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course.

The obvious interpretation is that the Arrow McLaren standout much preferred capturing The Honda Indy 200 at Mid-Ohio Presented by the 2025 Civic Hybrid over being handed the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg presented by RP Funding win six weeks after the fact when Team Penske’s Josef Newgarden was disqualified.

But “proper” fits in a number of ways:

  • It was the way O’Ward and his team executed an undercut of race leader Alex Palou during the second pit stop exchange, a 2.4-second swing that put the No. 5 Arrow McLaren Chevrolet in the lead for the first time;
  • Then, it was the calm, precise manner in which the 25-year-old Mexican driver finished the 80-lap race with the reigning series champion dogging his every move. Even faced with lapped traffic in the waning laps, O’Ward did not put a wheel wrong in leading the final 24 times around the 13-turn, 2.258-mile natural terrain road course.

Proper indeed.

The victory pushed O’Ward’s career win total to six, but it was the first time since the July 24, 2022, race at Iowa Speedway that his car was the first to cross the finish line. In St. Petersburg in March, O’Ward was the second finisher.

Coincidentally, the Hy-Vee INDYCAR Race Weekend doubleheader at Iowa Speedway is next on the NTT INDYCAR SERIES schedule. O’Ward still has a large deficit to Palou, but 70 points isn’t too much to erase over the remaining eight races. O’Ward has won two series races on oval tracks in his still-young career – that’s two more than Palou – so he has the confidence to use the six oval races left this season as a springboard to his first series title. O’Ward sits third in the standings.

It also should be noted that while O’Ward delivered impressively in the second half of Sunday’s race, he was the only driver in Palou’s ZIP code in the first half of the race, as well.

At Lap 21, for example, O’Ward trailed the driver of the No. 10 Ridgeline Lubricants Chip Ganassi Racing Honda by 5.6 seconds. The next-closest driver was David Malukas, who was 16 seconds out of the lead in his second race in Meyer Shank Racing’s No. 66 AutoNation/Arctic Wolf Honda. When Scott McLaughlin got to third place in the No. 3 Sonsio Team Penske Chevrolet, he felt so far behind Palou and O’Ward that he described the laps he turned without pressure from behind as “a test session.”

Sunday’s race will be remembered for the “proper” duel between O’Ward and Palou, but there were other interesting takeaways, as well.

Hybrid Technology Debuts

It wasn’t a perfect first outing, but the benefits of the new energy recovery system were clear. Among them: Romain Grosjean’s late-race ability to restart his No. 77 Juncos Hollinger Chevrolet without assistance, a situation that in the past likely would have led to a race-ending caution flag. Grosjean was able to use the hybrid supercapacitors to refire his engine and return to the track, and the race stayed green while Palou kept chasing O’Ward.

Additionally intriguing was the use of the additional horsepower by the drivers on the track’s backstretch. Mid-Ohio’s tight and twisty circuit doesn’t have a plethora of passing places, but it offered enough to show this technology will only add more intriguing racing moving forward.

O’Ward noted that if a driver forgot to deploy the stored energy when available, it cost him “a tenth and a half (of a second) that’s for free, (and) maybe a little bit more.”

Championship Takes Another Step

Palou’s performance, coupled with the struggles of top title contenders Will Power and Scott Dixon, has created a 48-point advantage for the Spaniard.

Dixon’s No. 9 PNC Bank Chip Ganassi Racing Honda was plagued by an electrical issue at the start of the race. He finished last, dropping him to fourth in the standings, 71 points in arrears.

Power and his No. 12 Verizon Business Team Penske Chevrolet finished 11th after a week of Power fighting something like the flu bug. Power remains second in the championship, but at 48 points behind, he trails Palou by nearly a full race.

Other Highlights

A race can only have one official winner, but several drivers surely exited the event with a positive outlook.

McLaughlin drove from sixth to finish third. In fourth place, Marcus Ericsson (No. 28 Delaware Life Honda of Andretti Global) scored his fourth consecutive top-10 finish since finishing last in the Indianapolis 500 presented by Gainbridge. Alexander Rossi’s sixth-place finish in the No. 7 Arrow McLaren Chevrolet added to his consistently strong season. He now has seven top-10 finishes in nine races.

Among the rookies, Christian Rasmussen’s ninth-place finish in the No. 20 Guy Care Chevrolet of Ed Carpenter Racing was the best result of his rookie season, and Toby Sowery’s series debut resulted in an impressive 14th-place drive in Dale Coyne Racing’s No. 51 Global Karting League/Vuzix Honda.