Heartbroken O’Ward cracking the Indy code but still licking wounds

Pato O’Ward is convinced that he couldn’t have done anything different in the final laps of Sunday’s Indianapolis 500, where he finished a heartbroken second after an extended battle with Josef Newgarden.

“I think in a way I’ve cracked a code and I know how to position myself to win this race,” he said. “I know I can win this race, and I know that I know how to also protect a good result when maybe the win isn’t in the cards for me.

“But in a race like that where it was a constant emotional roller coaster, where things — things weren’t going perfectly smooth, they really weren’t, but I think the team did a fantastic job, gave me an opportunity and called a really good strategy to then get ourselves back to the front and made a very strong overcut which ultimately put us into contention there in the end.


“Then just trying to get into the top two cars the last few laps was like… it’s so hard to do with these cars. You’re just stuck there, and you have to risk so much. I think on both fronts, on Scott [McLaughlin] and Alex [Rossi], I was probably a higher probability of shunting the car than getting back in one piece. But that’s what you have to do, I guess. Today we’re second.”

O’Ward and Newgarden battled to the finish. Josh Tons/Motorsport Images

O’Ward’s demeanor immediately after the race stood in stark contrast to Newgarden’s jubilant charge into the grandstands — he remained with his car, head down, helmet on, for some time after coming to a stop, and was clearly emotional when interviewed for the TV broadcast.

“It was just very wet in there,” he said of keeping his helmet on. “I didn’t want to take it off just yet. Just wanted to calm down a little bit.

“I’m fine. It’s been a tough month. So much goes into this race. I think I’m somebody that wears my heart on my sleeve. I don’t really hide anything. It’s just when you’ve come so close and you just can’t seem to get it right, it’s just a lot of emotion, I would say.

“I think in a few hours [the pain will subside]. I feel very proud of what I did today. I really do. It’s just after all that work and all those very risky kind of choices that I had to make in order to put myself in that position, it just stings to not be able to just finish it. But it is what it is.”

Outside of his final showdown with Newgarden, O’Ward’s highlight reel moment was an extraordinary save on Turn 2, where the in-car cameras caught a whirl of corrections as he fought to keep the No. 5 Arrow McLaren Chevrolet off the wall.

“It wasn’t the only [save],” he said. “I don’t know if they televised the other ones.

“Man, if there was one time where I had to put so much trust in my skill, it was today. There were so many times where I was like, ‘I don’t know if this is going to work out.’

“I was so loose, so, so, so loose. It was just wiggling so much, moving around a lot. There were so many moments like that where I knew what to expect, but sometimes you just never know when it’s going to want to bite.

“That’s just what makes it so much more like… oh. Right? I risked so much today to put myself in contention to win this race, but that’s what you have to do whenever you’re stuck in line like that.

“I did it when it counted, and yeah… probably the most crazy 500 that I’ve had for sure, just in terms of issues that I was having within my car. So many moments.”

Story originally appeared on Racer