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IndyCar St. Petersburg

The plot twist that gave Arrow McLaren’s Ward his first win as team principal

Although it didn’t happen how Gavin Ward envisioned, he officially took his first IndyCar victory as Arrow McLaren’s team principal following Team Penske’s disqualifications from the St. Petersburg race.

Gavin Ward. Arrows McLaren

IndyCar handed out disciplinary action and stripped Josef Newgarden of his season-opening win after officials found evidence of illegally using the push-to-pass system on restarts.

Scott McLaughlin, Newgarden’s team-mate who finished third, was also disqualified for similar actions.

The outcome promoted Pato O’Ward as the race winner 45 days after the event, collecting the fifth victory of his career and first since the second act of the Iowa doubleheader in 2022.

The third Team Penske entry of Will Power received a 10-point penalty but was not stripped of his finish as his car was capable of using it at starts and restarts, but he did not use it. He was elevated to second after the disqualification of his team-mates, while Andretti Global’s Colton Herta was moved up to third.

The victory is Ward’s first since he began overseeing McLaren’s IndyCar program in 2023 (under his former title as racing director). His maiden campaign in the role saw the team finish runner-up five times, including four with O’Ward.

“I was hoping to celebrate this first one for me a little bit different way down in Victory Lane with all our team but at the end of the day, when you win, you win,” he said.

“So, we’ll enjoy this.”

Patricio O'Ward, Arrow McLaren Chevrolet, leads Scott McLaughlin, Team Penske Chevrolet

Patricio O'Ward, Arrow McLaren Chevrolet, leads Scott McLaughlin, Team Penske Chevrolet

Photo by: Jake Galstad / Motorsport Images

Ward was promoted to his current role following a brief stint serving as the director of trackside engineering after coming over from Team Penske in June 2022.

His career began as an intern with Red Bull Racing, Ward quickly progressed through the ranks to take on various roles at the Formula 1 team including trackside control systems and race engineer before transitioning to the aerodynamics department.

During his 12 years with Red Bull, the team captured 50 victories, including three Monaco GP wins, along with claiming both the drivers’ and constructors’ titles four times.

He moved to IndyCar with Team Penske in 2018, with a near five-year run that included – ironically – guiding Newgarden to the 2019 title and finishing as the championship runner-up in 2020 and 2021.

Josef Newgarden, Team Penske Chevrolet, Gavin Ward, engineer

Josef Newgarden, Team Penske Chevrolet, Gavin Ward, engineer

Photo by: Michael L. Levitt / Motorsport Images

Although the victory is something Ward would rather have celebrated properly in St. Petersburg, he takes it with the belief there will be more chances as the 2024 season continues.

“It’s awesome to get a win and a really strong result just for the amount of effort this team puts in,” added Ward, 39.

“This team is just full of an incredible group of characters, and they have been grinding so hard to try and get results like this. I think it’s the first of many, hopefully, for me in this role as the team principal.”

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