Photo: Pato O’Ward celebrates his first Indycar win. Photo by Chris Jones, Indycar
Finally. Pato O’Ward knew he could win Indycar races before he even raced in the series. I remember his first press conference at Sonoma in 2018 before his first Indycar start. There was a quiet confidence about him. I felt then that I was looking at a future Indycar Series star. Today the road to stardom in the Indycar Series officially began.
O’Ward’s first series win came tonight with a series of strong passes, including moving past two cars on the second restart. His car was one of the strongest the entire race and the pit strategy on the final stop put him in a position to go for the win. he showed the patience he has sometimes lacked in waiting until the right moment to overtake Josef Newgarden with 23 laps to go. This won’t be his last win of 2021. We have a new contender for the championship.
Scott Dixon brought the field to the green flag at a slower than normal pace. The resulting six car pile up at the back of the pack caused the first 18 laps to be run under caution. I was surprised there was no red flag, but I assume the television window played a part in keeping the lap count going.
Alexander Rossi is off to another frustrating start to his year. He is more irritated this year about it because he feels his car is more competitive than it was in 2020. Rossi felt Indycar should have held qualifying for today’s race. That may not have prevented the accident, but I see his point, that some of the drivers involved in the wreck would have started further toward the front.
One of the problems with double header weekends is it is hard to deviate from the schedule. A last minute call to qualify today would have caused teams to scramble for an extra session. Indycar might want to look at building some flexibility into their double header schedule for a situation like this weekend in the future.
Tough Weekend for Bourdais, Daly
The early promise shown by Sebastien Bourdais and A. J. Foyt racing fell apart, literally theses last two days. Bourdais was involved in two of the three crashes the past two days. Neither was his fault.
Conor Daly struggled to a 21st place finish Saturday and ended up upside down today. Again the aeroscreen prevented an unpleasant outcome.
Both Dale Coyne cars and both Foyt cars suffered damage in the incident.
It is a good thing that the next race is in two weeks. Some of these cars were the teams’ cars for the Indianapolis 500, so there is plenty of time for repairs.
A Better Race
After Saturday’s race, I was not expecting an improvement in the racing tonight, although I though it would play out differently. Sunday’s race turned out to be a darned good one. I don’t know if it was the earlier start time in warmer temperatures than Saturday, or the teams learned some things in the first race, but there was passing for position, including at least three passes for the lead.
The oval package still needs a lot of work to make the cars race better. Texas Motor Speedway has to somehow eliminate the PJ1 compound for Indycar. I would not mind future races to be like what we witnessed tonight.
Indycar is four races into the 2021 season. Drivers under the age of 25 have won three races and have been on the pole three times. One of the poles was awarded by rule due to rain. Both Alex Palou and Pato O’Ward have won their first Indycar race. Colton Herta the “veteran” among the under 25 crowd, has won four races and four poles in his career. Palou led the point standings until the end of Saturday’s race. O’Ward is now second to Dixon in points, while Palou is third.
The future of Indycar is looking very bright.
It is hard to believe that Josef Newgarden led his first laps of 2021 in the fourth race of the year tonight.
In four races Indycar has seen four different winners from three different teams. two different drivers have won the two earned poles.
The Top 5 finishers tonight represent five different teams.
Alex Palou is the only driver to have led laps in every race this year.
This is the deepest into a season I can remember going without a win by a Team Penske driver. I will be shocked if I can still say that by the end of this month. Penske’s record at IMS on both the road course and in the 500 is second to none.