Race Weekend Central

Pato O’Ward Scores Third Runner-Up Finish at St. Petersburg

Instead of falling from the lead in 2023, Pato O’Ward had to fight for everything he was worth to maintain second place in Sunday’s (March 10) Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg to kick off the 2024 NTT IndyCar Series season.

O’Ward finished nearly eight seconds behind winner Josef Newgarden but fewer than four seconds covered the next four cars behind the 2018 Indy NXT champion after completing 100 laps around the 14-turn, 1.8-mile street circuit.

“Really strong day for us today,” O’Ward said. “I think it’s a very solid foundation to what is going to be a very tight, very competitive rest of the year. I think the Penskes were just too strong for us today. I think we were all kind of playing the fuel game a little bit, and got to give it to everybody at Chevrolet, my guys over at Arrow McLaren.”

O’Ward fell from third to fourth at the start in his No. 5 Arrow McLaren Chevrolet. Despite losing that position at the start, O’Ward kept in touch with the leaders and moved up to second after Christian Lundgaard‘s pit stop under the race’s second full-course yellow.

Despite having the same pit strategy as Newgarden and one more full-course yellow for Linus Lundqvist‘s stopped car at turn 10, to bunch the field back up, O’Ward could only watch the defending Indianapolis 500 winner drive away from him over the race’s final 28 laps.

See also
Josef Newgarden Dominates St. Petersburg to Start 2024 Season

Unlike 2023, there was no frustration on O’Ward’s face after climbing out of his car. Last season, O’Ward led the race until a plenum fire in his engine caused a momentary loss of power that handed that race win to Marcus Ericsson. This time around, O’Ward was more content, especially with a Chevrolet 1-2-3-4 finish.

“It feels different, super happy that we went forward today,” O’Ward said on pit road. “Penske was a little too strong today for us and I had McLaughlin and Power there putting some pretty good pressure but I was happy with my race car. We just needed just a little bit more to make Josef sweat. I’m super happy with the foundation that we’ve laid for ourselves in 2024 with today and it’s a long season ahead. We’re looking forward to it.”

Scott McLaughlin finished third ahead of Will Power and Colton Herta to round out the top five. Defending IndyCar champion Alex Palou finished sixth.

O’Ward’s teammates Alexander Rossi and Callum Ilott finished eighth and 13th, respectively. Felix Rosenqvist finished seventh, just ahead of Rossi, while Scott Dixon and Rinus VeeKay completed the top 10.

About the author

Christopher DeHarde has covered IndyCar racing and the Road to Indy for various outlets since 2014. In addition to open wheel racing, DeHarde has also covered IMSA and various short track racing events around Indiana. Originally from New Orleans, DeHarde moved to the Indianapolis area in 2017 to further pursue a career as a motorsports writer.

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O’ward and McLaughlin’s title fight might be ruined by Newgarden. The guy showed up with a chip on his shoulder and went full on BEAST MODE this weekend. The field is in trouble if he shows up with that intensity every race.

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