O’Ward: Pole a result of hustling a car with perfect balance

Barber Motorsports Park pole-winner Pato O’Ward says that his second IndyCar P1 Award came as a result of wringing the potential from a faithful handling car.

O’Ward: Pole a result of hustling a car with perfect balance

The Arrow McLaren SP-Chevrolet driver beat Alexander Rossi’s Andretti Autosport-Honda to pole despite an imperfect build-up in practice. While he and race engineer Will Anderson found a great setup on Firestone’s primary tires [black sidewalls] they were left uncertain about the #5 car’s potential on the alternate compound, which teams are allowed to sample in second practice session.

“Practice one and two were really messy,” said O’Ward who finished fourth in last year’s championship. “It got really dicey there with the traffic and people being different laps into their sequence. We didn't quite get an idea of what real pace we had.

“But I knew exactly what I needed to go faster. Will [Anderson] my engineer put his magic to work. We had a really, really quick car on reds and we maintained our very good pace on blacks that we had in Practice 2.

“Usually whenever you feel the tires go, you’ve just got to send it and hope that it's going to hang on to you. By Q3, I knew what to expect [from the reds]. In Q1, I was like, ‘Well, we didn't really get to try them in Practice 2 because we had such a messy run. We didn't really get the peak out of it.’ I said, ‘Let's just ship it and see where it takes us.’

“We pulled out a great lap time. I think we were first in Q1, as well. We transferred and we didn't make much changes. I was really happy with the car. It was behaving well. I felt confident to attack corners. This is a car that has to get hustled if you want to start at the front. So that's what we did.”

Asked about his aggressive driving style, O’Ward smiled, remarking: “I definitely have heard from my engineer and just from other people… They tell me I don't have a problem going sideways. I think that's true. I like to hustle the car around. I think I'm very aggressive with input.

“But… you need a car that will give you the support in order to really attack the corners. That's honestly what we were looking for in qualifying. In Practice 2 we didn't quite get the right balance. We made a few changes. We hit the spot right on for qualifying, especially for reds.”

Regarding strategy for tomorrow, considering there appears to be a 0.8sec gap between the primary and alternate compounds – at least when they’re fresh – O’Ward said he remains uncertain.

“I think tire deg[radation] shouldn't be as big as it has been in the past,” he said, alluding to the resurfaced 2.38-mile course. “:There will for sure be some deg.

“It's going to be interesting tomorrow in warm-up, who runs on blacks and reds, and see the falloff. We don't know how much [the reds] might last. A stint around here is usually as short as 12 laps but as long as 25.

“I think tomorrow warm-up is going to be the key to trying to get the optimized strategy for the race, to see if it's going to be a ‘black race’ or a ‘red race’.

The 30min warm-up session starts at 10.30am local (Central) time, while the race gets the green flag at 2.40pm CT.

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About this article

Series IndyCar
Event Birmingham
Drivers Patricio O'Ward
Teams Arrow McLaren SP
Author David Malsher-Lopez
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