Written by Danny Jones, Edited by Sasha Macmillen
Pato O’Ward finally got his 2022 season up and running with a thrilling victory at Barber Motorsports Park. O’Ward, who started second, was behind polesitter Rinus VeeKay, until the second set of pitstops, where O’Ward pulled off an incredible move round the outside of Charlotte’s Web to take the net lead of the race, which he held until the end.
The race was initially cautioned on the first lap, after the field had not bunched up appropriately to take the start. On attempt two, we went to green, and the pack remained largely the same, apart from Scott McLaughlin jumping Alex Palou at the start. Callum Ilott caused the only ‘real’ caution of the race, by spinning at turn 7.
Ilott’s spin helped the lead runners, who were on the two-stop, and hampered the chances of those attempting 3. However, the front order stayed the same, apart from Will Power, who had epicly moved from P19 at the start, and bounced up to P4 on the alternate strategy. After O’Ward’s epic move on VeeKay, Alex Palou remained out on track for several laps longer than VeeKay, and jumped the Dutchman in the pitstop phase to claim P2, but was eventually unable to hunt down O’Ward.
Colton Herta’s miserable weekend was further compounded by another mistake. The Californian had made gutsy moves all race long, but an attempted move down the inside of Scott McLaughlin proved rash and he spun, and could only recover to a disappointing P10.
Romain Grosjean was involved in a controversial moment with Graham Rahal in the closing stages, where the Frenchman seemed to deliberately hit Rahal, when attempting an overtake, and overtook him on the final lap, after Rahal had to coast for fuel saving problems.
Despite all this, O’Ward drove a calm and collected race despite Palou lurking under 2 seconds for the majority of the race. VeeKay recovered to 3rd, whilst Power kept up his streak of finishing in the top 4 every race this season, with Scott Dixon also making an impressive recovery drive to 5th. Championship contenders Scott McLaughlin and Josef Newgarden finished 6th and a disappointing 14th respectively.
Palou’s second place finish propels him to the lead of the championship, after taking 3 podiums in the 4 opening rounds. Newgarden’s disappointing day drops him behind both McLaughlin and Palou, as his quest to win 1 million dollars, for winning a street course, oval and road course, will have to wait until Indianapolis.
Power’s impressive performance keeps him P4 in the standings, and O’Ward’s victory propels him to 5th, 1 point ahead of Scott Dixon. Colton Herta has only finished in the top 9 once this season, and sits a miserable 11th in the championship.
O’Ward’s victory comes after a new contract agreement between him and Arrow McLaren SP, and O’Ward cited in his post-race interview: ‘It’s not nice to be at war within your own team’, in reference to contractual disputes between 2 sides, and O’Ward stating: ‘I do not know what my future holds’ in St. Petersburg, but this win solidifies the contract agreement. O’Ward also took his first victory on a road course, and the 3rd victory of his career, and one of each discipline, in a road course, street course and oval.
The Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama kicked off IndyCar’s ‘Month of May’ celebrations, where the series builds up to its most famous race, the Indianapolis 500. However, before then, IndyCar has to visit the Indianapolis Road Course on the 14th May, before 2 weeks of practice and qualifying before the 106th Running of the Indianapolis 500, and we cannot wait.