De Ferran: Pato O’Ward “drove his heart out” to another podium

McLaren Racing sporting director Gil de Ferran was left deeply impressed with Pato O’Ward’s drive to second place in IndyCar’s 2020 finale in the Grand Prix of St. Petersburg.

De Ferran: Pato O’Ward “drove his heart out” to another podium

O’Ward qualified his Arrow McLaren SP-Chevrolet in sixth and ran top six for most of the race, while avoiding the Turn 3 errors committed by leaders Will Power and Alexander Rossi.

Following the final restart, the 21-year-old Mexican grabbed third place from soon-to-be crowned six-time champion Scott Dixon of Chip Ganassi Racing, and moved in on his former Indy Lights teammate, Colton Herta. He dived past the Andretti Harding Steinbrenner driver at Turn 4 and was onto the tail of leader Josef Newgarden.

Although he couldn’t hang onto the Penske-Chevrolet driver, O’Ward was able to pull away from the battle between Dixon and Sebastien Bourdais’ and finish runner-up, four seconds behind Newgarden.

It was the third runner-up place of O’Ward’s season, his fourth podium and sixth top five, and moved him ahead of Power to claim fourth in the final points standings.

“What a result!” exclaimed de Ferran, two-time Indy car champion and an Indy 500 winner. “Another podium and fourth in the championship for Pato.

“The team executed strategy and pit stops very well. Pato, in his usual style, drove his heart out. His aggressiveness and determination were crucial at the end of the race to put himself in P2.

“We didn’t quite have enough to challenge the leader in the closing laps, but, again another stellar performance from Pato and the team.

“We close this year on a high and once again, I would like to thank our team, partners and fans.”

O’Ward, who was not classified as a rookie this year due to his 2019 drives for Carlin, but who has still only run 22 IndyCar races, was also left satisfied by his endeavors – and bullish about his 2021 prospects.

“I’m so proud of Arrow McLaren SP and myself for what we accomplished this year,” he said. “Our win will have to wait. We came in second place in the season finale, just five points short of third place in the championship. [But] we have lots to be proud of.

“I’m really grateful for the opportunity that I got. I think we showcased that we are a force to be reckoned with and we are going to be pushing next year to give these veterans a harder time. Hopefully, bring it to the last race and win this championship.”

Teammate Oliver Askew, who missed the Harvest GP double-header due to concussion incurred in a nasty shunt at the Indy 500, also made a good impression on his return to action. He qualified 10th (ahead of Dixon) and was running in the Top 10 when his #7 car was ushered into the Turn 10 tire barrier by Indy winner Takuma Sato in the final quarter of the race.

By the time he had been extracted and made an extra pitstop to replace his damaged front wing, Askew had fallen two laps down and could only salvage 10th.

“We had a really strong weekend up until the second half of the race,” said the 2019 Indy Lights champion who scored third place for the team in Iowa, but who has been released by AMSP for 2021. “We were heading for a top 10 finish until I got taken out.

“It’s a bummer we couldn’t get a positive result in our final race with Arrow McLaren SP but I think I showed the rest of the series what I can do. I want to thank the entire team for all the hard work they have put in this year and support they have given me.”

Taylor Kiel, managing director of the team, said: “We are obviously very happy with today’s second place result for Pato and really happy with the way Oliver drove. He had some unfortunate contact that ended his chances for a promising result but he did a fantastic job today. 

“More importantly, both drivers have done a fantastic job all season long – dealing with adversity, overcoming that adversity, and growing stronger because of it.

“I’m very proud of everyone at Arrow McLaren SP and I’m happy to close out 2020 on a high note.”

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