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San Antonio’s Patricio O’Ward to compete in NTT IndyCar Series race at COTA this weekend

by Mike Haag | Posted on Saturday, March 23rd, 2019

Patricio O’Ward. Photo by Joe Skibinski

 

AUSTIN, Texas – Patricio “Pato” O’Ward of San Antonio will make his first NTT IndyCar Series start of the season this weekend at the INDYCAR Classic at Circuit of The Americas.

Patricio O’Ward. Photo by Stephen King

The event will be the first NTT IndyCar Series race at Circuit of the Americas and the first of two NTT IndyCar Series races to be held in Texas in 2019. Texas Motor Speedway, which has hosted IndyCar racing since 1997, will host its annual race in June.

“It’s going to be a great weekend at COTA,” O’Ward said.  “I’ve lived here in San Antonio for a few years now and I’m originally from Monterrey, Mexico.   This is the closest race that INDYCAR  comes to my home so I consider it as definitely a home race. I think it’s a great place for INDYCAR to come. It’s a world-class facility and I’m looking forward to it.”

The 19-year-old rookie driver, who will be driving the No. 31 Chevrolet, said he will compete in 13 races this season for Carlin Racing.

“This is a great opportunity for me,” O’Ward said.  “I am one of the youngest on the grid. This is pretty special.  Once you’re in the car it doesn’t really matter because we kind of have the same things but I am a lot younger than the other ones. So this is a little different than what I am used to.”

Patricio O’Ward. Photo by Joe Skibinski

O’Ward will be joining rookie drivers like Colton Herta, Felix Rosenqvist, Marcus Ericsson, Santino Ferrucci and Kyle Kaiser.  They’ll be competing against a field of veteran drivers such as Alexander Rossi, Josef Newgarden, Simon Pagenaud, Will Power, Graham Rahal, Ryan Hunter-Reay, Scott Dixon, James Hinchcliffe, Marco Andretti, Tony Kanaan and Takuma Sato.

“INDYCAR is the most competitive series on the world right now,” O’Ward said.  “There are some really tough names to go against but just like everyone else they can be beaten just like in any category like Formula One, NASCAR or IndyCar.  It’s different because now I am racing with guys that I have seen since I was a kid. They turned from heroes and idols to rivals and that is definitely a different mindset from when you were a kid.”

Patricio O’Ward. Photo by Stephen King

O’Ward, who is a native of Monterrey, Mexico, will become the first full-time NTT IndyCar Series driver from Mexico since the mid-2000s.  Last year he made his NTT IndyCar Series debut in the 2018 season finale at Sonoma Raceway where he qualified fifth and finished ninth.

“The objectives is to always drive competitive and be up front as much as we can,” O’Ward said. “That’s the goal as of now.  Is it going to be easy? No, probably not. Is it possible? Yes! We just have to work hard and really just identify doing something wrong and just correct it the best we can. Carlin Racing is a very respected team in Europe.  They are a winning team and that’s the most important part of all. Also, I want to win and they want to win so we are all going to be giving it our all.”

Patricio O’Ward. Photo by Stephen King

Last season O’Ward won the 2018 Indy Lights championship and became first Mexican driver to accomplish that feat.

“These races are a lot longer than what I am used to,” O’Ward said.  “That was something different for me. Obviously the cars are a lot faster and the tires are different.  There’s a lot of different stuff that a driver like me has to get used to. It will be a huge help for this weekend because I am not walking into a dark room not knowing what to expect.  I kind of know what to expect now and I am definitely more ready for it.”

O’Ward said he definitely thinks that racing in the Indy Lights Series helped prepare him for this season and the NTT IndyCar Series.

Patricio O’Ward. Photo by Stephen King

“It really prepares you,” O’Ward said.  “That’s why it’s called Road to Indy. There’s nothing quite like it in the world.  It prepares you for every aspect so when you get to INDYCAR it’s so much more but it gives you the fundamental things that you have to learn whenever you don’t know anything about media, about driving, about tires and tire management and all those things.”

O”Ward added, “The Indy Lights program did prepare me very well for INDYCAR because I adapted pretty quick.  I had a really nice weekend in Sonoma last weekend. It is definitely a huge help and the cars are similar in a way but the NTT IndyCar Series cars have much more power and the tires are very different.  So that’s what we kind of have to adapt to the most. Everything else is pretty straight forward and it’s just another race car.”

O”Ward has previous racing experience at COTA.  In 2017 he competed in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship Prototype Challenge where he co-drove the car class in 2017 alongside co-driver James French in dominant fashion with seven victories, including the Rolex 24 Hours at Daytona.

“Now I will be competing with guys that are in the category of they have in the sport longer than I have been alive,” O’Ward said.  “That’s something that you can’t buy. You can’t get that from night and day. That’s knowledge that you have to add up from every year and race that you are in.   It’s going to be a very cool event and it’s definitely an opportunity that is this close to home.”

O’Ward will start Sunday’s race eighth on the grid after qualifying Saturday with a time 1:46.3807, 115.397 mph.

About the Author

Mike Haag has covered motorsports in San Antonio and South Texas for more than 30 years. In addition to working for the San Antonio Express-News for nearly 28 years, Mike also has co-hosted TrackSmack with Dawn Murphy for 15 race seasons. In addition to being a writer, Mike also teaches English at Floresville High School.

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