O’Ward bolsters title hopes with brilliant win
The first of three Pro Mazda races at Laguna Seca ended with Pato O’Ward beating championship leading teammate Aaron Telitz and score his first win since May, despite losing a late restart.
The former dominant force in the championship shook off his summertime blues by beating polesitter Telitz from the drop of the green flag and then pulling away. His lead stretched to over 11sec before Kory Enders ran off-road at the Andretti Hairpin bringing out a full-course yellow that left a one-lap sprint to the flag.
On that restart, O’Ward just held off Telitz down to Turn 2, but drifted slightly wide on exit allowing Telitz in front. O’Ward wasn’t done though, and dived down the inside into Turn 5, and while his teammate stayed close on the run up the hill to Turn 6 and looked like he might try a move at the top of the Corkscrew, the #80 emerged in front and eventually crossed the line one second behind.
O’Ward’s cause throughout the race had been aided by Telitz having to go on the defensive. The championship leader’s focus was on fending off the attentions of Nicolas Dapero, Juncos Racing’s 18-year-old Argentine prodigy who has had a breakthrough in confidence over the past couple of races.
Although he never quite made it past Telitz, Dapero earned a lot of respect by sitting in the slipstream of Telitz without screwing his Cooper Tires and without making any banzai moves. His first roadcourse podium finish was well deserved.
Fourth place went to Cape Motorsport’s Nico Jamin, with Jake Parsons fifth for Juncos after a last-lap pass on the third Pelfrey car of TJ Fischer.
O’Ward’s win cuts Telitz’s championship lead from 14 to eight points with two races to go.
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Title contenders’ first-lap clash hands win to Dapero