O’Ward upset to get “hosed” by “very odd call” from IndyCar

Championship challenger Pato O’Ward says he felt cheated out of his chance to be in the Firestone Fast Six in Long Beach following a controversial end to Q2.

O’Ward upset to get “hosed” by “very odd call” from IndyCar

When Will Power’s Team Penske-Chevrolet ground to a halt without gears at Turn 10, a local yellow flew, and while O’Ward – at that point sixth fastest – and championship leader Alex Palou slowed dramatically, others did not.

Trackside Online points out that IndyCar’s Rule 7.1.3.2., states that all Drivers shall reduce speed by a minimum of 15% (or greater if conditions warrant) and be prepared to stop. Four drivers improved their times that lap, pushing O’Ward down to ninth, but only Ed Jones of Dale Coyne Racing with Vasser Sullivan was subsequently penalized, so the Arrow McLaren SP driver moved up only to eighth.

A confused O’Ward, who had been disconsolate after a poor practice on Friday, was happy that his car was improved, for Saturday but was frustrated at being on the fourth row, only two spots ahead of a driver he needs to beat by 35 points in order to win the 2021 NTT IndyCar Series championship.

“We didn't roll off the best, but I think we made some really good changes, just kept improving,” said the Arrow McLaren SP-Chevrolet driver who scored the first two IndyCar wins of his career this year. “We had enough for the Fast 6. Yeah, we should have been in the Fast 6, so... kind of sucks to get hosed by a very odd call. I'm still seeking answers.

One of the beneficiaries from O’Ward’s demise was teammate Felix Rosenqvist, and the Mexican driver said that he was “really, really happy for Felix, that he went into the Fast 6.” But he added: “We're in the same team and we have literal data that shows that at least two of the cars that didn't get penalized kept going quickly in the yellow flag.

“I don't know. Maybe rules don't apply the last race of the season when everything's at stake. It just sucks. Sucks that we're stuck there because we should have transferred. We had the car to fight it. I don't know if for pole, but we definitely had a car to be in the Fast 6 and start within the first two rows… I'm still waiting on the explanation, just like you and everybody else. But doubt I'll get an explanation.”

AMSP team president Taylor Kiel, asked by Peacock/NBC if he felt O’Ward should have been in the Fast Six, replied: “Yes, I think he should be for sure. We’ve actually got some data on our own team that says [so]. I’m surprised Felix is through, frankly. Two cars for a fact we know went through the local yellow.

“But the results are official. It’s unfortunate when the stakes are so high.”

Palou, by contrast, could afford to be more sanguine about the situation, given a championship lead that means he only needs to finish 12th to defeat O’Ward.

“I think we had a really good car Q1,” said the Chip Ganassi Racing-Honda driver. “I thought we had a good car also in Q2. That yellow flag didn't help us at all. I think we were going to be easy through, but racing stuff, right?

“I'm happy because the car's good, a bit better than yesterday and this morning. Yeah, should be a good race tomorrow.”

Palou said that in the race he wouldn’t be paying attention to his title rivals – pole-winner Josef Newgarden is also still mathematically in the hunt – but purely looking after what he can control.

“I think we need to focus on doing a good race,” he said. “We have a good car and we have potential to try and fight for the win tomorrow. Our car was really good and we were going to make it into the Fast 6, like many others obviously.

“But we have a good car. So I think we're in a good position tomorrow to fight. We'll go for it. Maybe after the last pit stop when I know everything is smoother, maybe I'll want to know. But as long as we're having a good race, I'm not going to have to worry about what the others do.

Even if I know what the others are doing, it's not like I'm going to go faster or slower! So... Yeah, I think I'll wait until the checkered flag to ask.

Asked if Ganassi teammate Scott Dixon, who will start from the front row, can play any role in helping him take the championship the title, Palou replied, “Yeah, by winning."

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