PORTLAND, Ore – Good thing Pato O’Ward’s crash in qualifying on Saturday to set the field for Sunday’s Indy Lights season finale at the Portland International Raceway didn’t cost him the championship, because the Andretti Autosport driver was slated to start seventh today. But, due to him scoring his eighth win of the season in Saturday’s opening race of a doubleheader race weekend around the Pacific Northwest track, O’Ward has also clinched the championship as well.
O’Ward,19, started on the pole for Saturday’s race and he led 26 of the 35 laps en route to his fifth victory in his last seven starts of the season in his No. 27 Mazda. The Mexican driver led the opening four laps before being passed by his teammate and his biggest challenger to win this year’s championship, Colton Herta. Nine laps later, O’Ward got back by and never looked back en route to a 1.6867-second victory.
Herta, had to settle for his fourth straight runner-up finish on the season in his No. 98 Mazda and would likely clinch a second place finish in the final standings. The second generation driver had nine podiums in his first 10 starts to the season, four of which wins (all consecutively). From the Month of May at Indy through Road America at the end of June, Herta had six straight top two finishes. The title looked to be all but his.
Then Toronto happened. Herta, crashed in qualifying for Race No. 1 of that July race weekend and would finish seventh in the race. In the second race, he had to start and park and get a sixth place result.
From Toronto on, O’Ward had finishes of first, second, first, first, third and first respectively. That’s enough for him to win the Mazda Road to Indy scholarship and make at least four appearances in the Verizon IndyCar Series in 2019.
The only thing now is who will he race for?
Andretti has all four of his current drivers signed for next season. I can’t see him expanding to a five car full time effort. Andretti also has interest in Fernando Alonso. Herta, has funding from Steinbrenner Racing and those two may be moving up as well.
Nevertheless, O’Ward has money to race in a few races in INDYCAR next year and Herta is likely to join him too. The only problem is that they may not be able to do so with Andretti.
Race No. 1 Results
- 27 O’Ward R
- 98 Herta
- 23 Franzoni R
- 5 Urrutia
- 48 Norman
- 9 Telitz
- 28 Kellett
- 7 Choi