DETROIT – Just when it appeared Team Penske was about to claim its first NTT IndyCar Series win of the season, enter Pato O’Ward of Arrow McLaren SP.
The 22-year-old driver from Monterrey, Mexico, charged his way to the top after the final restart with seven laps to go, passing two cars in two corners to make it up to third. He passed Colton Herta for second three laps from the finish, then made a brilliant race-winning pass on Josef Newgarden with just more than two laps to go.
O’Ward was able to keep his Chevrolet ahead of the field during the final laps to become the first two-time winner of the NTT IndyCar Series season, winning Sunday’s Chevrolet Detroit Grand Prix at Belle Isle Race No. 2.
O’Ward made up 15 positions from where he started and had 12 on-track passes for position, tied with Japan’s Takuma Sato for the most in the race.
Newgarden finished second, 6.7595 seconds behind O’Ward at the finish line.
“Nice..job…hell of a job,” Arrow McLaren SP President Taylor Kiel radioed to the race-winning driver. “That was a very nice job.”
O’Ward passed Herta for second on lap 65 and the driver from Mexico began his charge on the race leader. Newgarden, who was driving on used Firestone Red tires, did not have enough speed or grip to keep O’Ward from the victory.
“I had such a great car all weekend,” O’Ward said. “I knew I had a great car under me. This is Team Chevy territory. I’m so excited and so pumped about this.
“I told Felix Rosenqvist this morning that I’m going to win it for him.”
O’Ward was referring to his teammate, Rosenqvist, who was released from a Detroit hospital Sunday morning after his massive crash during Saturday’s race.
The victory allowed O’Ward to take over the NTT IndyCar Series point lead by one point over third-place finisher Alex Palou. Herta finished fourth with Graham Rahal rounding out the top five.
Newgarden led 67 laps in the 70-lap race, only to have his used-up tires lose grip at the end.
“Sad, just pretty sad,” Newgarden said of his runner-up finish. “It’s hard to be this disappointed. We had the car to beat. Cautions when we didn’t need them. Tires when we didn’t need them. We were doing well, but the caution really killed us. We tried and went for what we went for.
“He was coming like a freight train, what are you going to do? I had so much wheel spin, my tires were shot to death. I was trying to be aggressive. But if we don’t pit, we would get completely hosed. It didn’t work our way.”
Scott Dixon, third in the championship and 36 points out of the lead, finished seventh in the No. 9 Honda, one position behind Will Power’s No. 12 Chevrolet.
There was only one lead change and two different leaders, but a great finish when young drivers Herta and O’Ward battled it out with Newgarden for the victory.
There were three cautions, including one when Jimmie Johnson spun by himself in turn one on Lap 55. Johnson’s No. 48 Honda was able to get refired and he finished 21st after starting 25th, the best advancement in a race in his IndyCar Series rookie season.
There was a caution early in the race when Max Chilton crashed at the start and with 11 laps left when Romain Grosjean’s No. 51 Honda had a brake fire.
Grosjean, who was severely burned in a Formula One crash in Bahrain on Nov. 29, 2020, got out of his car, went to a corner worker to get a fire extinguisher, and attempted to put out the first himself before AMR Safety Workers waved him off to handle it themselves.
Oliver Askew took over for the injured Rosenqvist in the No. 7 Arrow McLaren SP Honda. He started and finished 25th in the 25-car field.
“I don’t think there are words for this,” Kiel said. “I’m thrilled for the work the team put in to get the car back on track and I’m more thrilled that Felix is OK. But, man, what a drive by Pato. He drove his butt off.
“What a great day.”