Photo: Walter G. Arce/ASP, Inc.

Arrow McLaren Aims to Spoil Penske Party at Indianapolis

By David Morgan, Associate Editor

SPEEDWAY, Ind. – Thus far through the Month of May at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, Team Penske has elevated themselves as the favorites to take home the Borg Warner Trophy when the checkered flag falls on the 108th running of the Indianapolis 500.

But the 30 other drivers in the field are hoping to play spoiler on Sunday, including the four drivers from the Arrow McLaren stable – Alexander Rossi, Pato O’Ward, Callum Ilott, and NASCAR Cup champion Kyle Larson running in his first Indy 500.

Rossi and Larson will roll off from the second row as the top-two non-Penske cars, with O’Ward starting in the row behind them in eighth and Ilott having some work to do from 15th.

“You always want more, and we were hoping we were going to at least upset that front row lock that Penske pulled off,” said team Principal Gavin Ward. “But in terms of our race performance, race running, we’ve been really happy, and I feel like we’ve got four bullets in the chamber when it comes to trying to win the big show.”

In recent history, O’Ward has been the driver among the Arrow McLaren group that has been the biggest threat to win at Indianapolis, steadily increasing his best finishes from sixth to second in his first three starts and last season led a race-high 39 laps before a crash on Lap 192 brought his day to a screeching halt.

“The three Penskes are obviously the ones that look like they’re the ones to beat. I know there’s multiple cars in the field that will make them sweat,” said O’Ward.

“I’m confident that we can make our way forward and just put ourselves into a position to win it.”

While the Penske cars may have been the class of the field in qualifying, O’Ward explained that being fast in qualifying is one thing, but being fast in the race itself is a whole new animal.

“One thing is to qualify here, but one thing is to race and to make sure you’re one of the guys that has a shot,” he said.

“That’s where your whole team really comes into play. If you’re starting within the first 15 or 20 cars here, you’ve got a good car, you can win this race. Honestly eighth for me is phenomenal. I was super happy with that, considering where we started on Saturday. I think just now it’s just finalizing the little details and fixing the little issues that we know we’ve got and make sure that we’ve got the best tools at hand in order for me to get the job done for myself and for everybody else.

“Yeah, that’s the nature of this place. You never know what it’s got in store for you.”

Rossi, the former Indy 500 winner, has found new life at Indianapolis this year as he looks to improve on his fifth-place finish with Arrow McLaren last season and add a second win at Indianapolis to his resume.

He explained that through an offseason of hard work and the collaboration through all four cars, the team has brought a strong package to Indianapolis this season as they look to finally break through to capture their first Indy 500 win as an organization.

“I think we have four cars that have contributed really well throughout the month and pushed each other forward, and we all have really good tools to go to work on Sunday,” said Rossi. “I just think it’s a culmination of the hard work that was done in the off-season and just continuing to build the best race cars we can to go fast when it counts.

Rossi added that while they didn’t have quite enough in qualifying to knock the Penske cars off the front row, he believes they are definitely in the ballpark when it comes to the race.

“We knew that we were maybe at a little bit of a deficit, and all four cars gave it their best crack. But there’s such a difference between qualifying performance and race performance,” said Rossi.

“We have really just been as a group kind of happy all month, and I think that’s the most telling thing. There’s never been any panic on a day when conditions have been a little bit different. The cars haven’t fallen out of the window or anything.

“I think we’re just excited. We’re excited to — as a driver, all you want at this race is to have an opportunity. There’s obviously no guarantees here. But I think I speak for all of us when we say we feel that we have the cars that give us an opportunity to maybe be that guy that wins it at the end.”

Tags : , , , , , , , ,

David Morgan is the Associate Editor for Motorsports Tribune. A 2008 graduate from the University of Mississippi, David has followed NASCAR since the early 90’s and became hooked at an early age after attending his first race at Talladega Superspeedway in 1993. He has traveled across the country since 2012 to cover some of the most prestigious events both IndyCar and NASCAR have to offer, with an aim to only expand on that in the near future.