Pato O’Ward continued his season domination in the second of two Pro Mazda Championship Presented by Cooper Tires races at the 2.439-mile Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course, to complete a weekend sweep.
The 17-year-old native of Monterrey, Mexico has now won five of six races this year, even as he remains on a weekend-to-weekend schedule. But given his incredible start, he seems poised to continue as the year rolls on.
O’Ward entered the day’s action with a 31-point lead on Team Pelfrey teammate Aaron Telitz, having gained 19 points on Friday alone with a flag-to-flag win from pole and Telitz finishing seventh and outside the top two for the first time this year. Grist entered third in points, a further 33 points behind Telitz.
Here was the starting grid for the 40-minute race two.
Off the start, Telitz tried to put his No. 82 Rice Lake Weighing Systems alongside or close to O’Ward in the No. 80 Gap Guard/Topo Chico-backed entry, but was unable to complete a move through the opening turns. Telitz then fell into the clutches of the Juncos Racing pair of Will Owen and Garett Grist, while O’Ward got away.
At the end of the first lap O’Ward led Telitz by 1.5485 seconds, with Owen leading the quartet of Juncos entries from third to sixth.
On Lap 2, O’Ward had a 2.9736-second lead. Grist fell from fourth to sixth behind his other teammates, Nicolas Dapero and Jake Parsons.
Grist got back around Parsons on Lap 3 and Dapero by Lap 6, while up front O’Ward had extended his lead on Telitz to 4.4687 seconds.
At Lap 10, O’Ward led Telitz by just over 4.5 seconds with Owen and Grist third and fourth and Nico Jamin having got around the other two Juncos entries and up to fifth.
The order stabilized from there throughout the 12-car field with O’Ward leading Telitz, Owen, Grist and Jamin in the top five ahead of Parsons, Jake Eidson and Dapero.
The Team Pelfrey pair extended the gap over the Juncos drivers to double digits, with Owen again in a race of his own behind them, and Owen clear of Grist and Jamin, which became the best battle on the racetrack.
Telitz was able to progressively gain a few tenths on O’Ward but couldn’t drop the number below the 4-second mark.
By Lap 27, O’Ward’s gap was north of five seconds to 5.0011 over Telitz.
He took the white flag after completing Lap 28 with a gap of 4.9657 seconds, and took the checkered flag 4.7056 seconds clear of Telitz, following a second successive 29-lap, caution-free race.
Owen secured his second podium finish in as many days in third in the No. 23 AMR Juncos car.
A final lap change of position occurred for fourth with Jamin able to pass Grist, and score his best result since ending fourth in St. Petersburg round two.
Jamin’s final lap of 1:24.1944 was more than 1.2 seconds clear of Grist in that lap, as the Frenchman, in his Soul Red No. 2 Mazda for Cape Motorsports with Wayne Taylor Racing entry, got around the Canadian.
Bobby Eberle of JDC Motorsports took his second National class win in as many days.
O’Ward, who endured a tough weekend on the IMS road course last year, was euphoric on the cold Saturday morning in speaking to Rob Howden on the podium.
“I was really motivated when I came here,” he said. “We had a really bad weekend last year, I wanted to do a good job and give back something to the team for all the hard work they’ve given me. It showed.
“We had amazing rhythm, and had a great setup that hit the sweet spot. I was a bit nervous, and started on sticker Cooper Tires. It was going to be different than qualifying. I got into the groove, and started keeping consistent lap times. We also got the pole and fastest lap; I can’t ask for anything else. We got the perfect weekend.”
Unofficial results are below following the latest O’Ward victory.
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