O’Ward: Portland test put Arrow McLaren SP “where we belong”

Pato O’Ward, who won his third IndyCar pole of the season at Indianapolis Motor Speedway’s road course today, is convinced the Arrow McLaren SP-Chevrolet team’s recent Portland test has boosted his chances of going for the championship.

O’Ward: Portland test put Arrow McLaren SP “where we belong”

Although O’Ward slipped to third in the standings following last weekend’s Nashville race, he remains only 48 points behind leader Alex Palou of Chip Ganassi Racing-Honda, and in qualifying for tomorrow’s Big Machine Spiked Cooler Grand Prix, he clocked he narrowly edged Will Power to claim the fourth pole of his career.

“We've had a very tough last few races,” said the 21-year-old Mexican who won at Texas Motor Speedway and in Detroit Race 2. “I'm tired of being in the middle pack.

“We had a great test in Portland. What we found there I knew was going to help us here. So the goal is definitely to truly return where we belong, which is contending for podiums, for poles, ultimately for wins…

“There's still five races to go. I know racing. Things can spiral down very quick or they can spiral up very quick. I just think the focus on really executing on every single session that we do from now until [finale] Long Beach checkered flag is going to be critical.

“But I'm not far back. I can definitely claw my way back into the fight for this championship. That is the goal. We've been fighting for it kind of all year.

“What I truly want, I want to get to Long Beach with a proper, legit chance of winning the championship. I'm excited. I think we have some great circuits for us coming up. I'm really excited.”

Regarding the Portland test, O’Ward said his car “just handles better. We've had a quick car in many places, but damn it's a handful. It is so hard to drive. I think we have found something that just is more predictable, that just makes it a lot easier on Felix [Rosenqvist, teammate] and I to actually get laps in lap after lap consistently.

“We’ve just been really focused on trying to make a better package for both qualifying and the race. One thing is to have a qualifying car and one thing is to have a racecar. We're trying to maximize both. I feel like that's where we have lacked a little bit in terms of we've had a very strong qualifying car and then we don't have anything for the race, but then we'll have a great racecar but in qualifying we're just not quite there…

“[This] feels like a breath of fresh air. It just shows us what we've been working on in testing, in our mini break, worked. I'm very excited. Not just for tomorrow, I really want to turn the page this weekend. I feel like we have. We've done a good job so far.

“But tomorrow we have a big job ahead. Just keep doing it. Gateway is coming up. We had a very strong race there last year. Portland, Laguna, they're all tracks I really enjoy. I think we're going to have a strong package. We have to maximize every single one and I think that's going to put us right where we want to be.”

Given his title aspirations, O’Ward said he’s “not going to do something stupid” in tomorrow’s race.

“Whenever you have a chance to win, you need to take those points and win because it's not like every weekend you go and you can win. We're definitely going for that.

“But if we can't manage to do that, I'm not going to do something stupid and put it in the wall. We need to be smart. We're obviously going for it. If we can't win, then we take second. Still a lot of points.

“Yeah, man, I'm just really looking forward to turning the page to our very crappy last three races, close out this weekend very strong, and don't look back until the checkered flag waves in Long Beach.”

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