By Luis Torres, Staff Writer
Pato O’Ward had his work cut out for during Saturday’s Genesys 300 at Texas Motor Speedway, but excelled under pressure. After rolling off 11th due to the starting lineup being determined via entrant points, O’Ward ended the 212-lap event in third.
On an evening all about the two New Zealanders (Scott Dixon and Scott McLaughlin) who finished ahead of him, O’Ward put on an encouraging run. This moved him up from 11th to fourth in points, trailing Dixon by 38 points heading into tomorrow’s XPEL 375. A race that consists 248 laps, 26 circuits longer than Saturday that’ll air live at 5:00pm ET on NBCSN.
O’Ward said there was a lot to be learned from Saturday. Most notably, dealing with traffic which he felt that his No. 5 Arrow McLaren SP Chevrolet needs some improvement.
“It should make our race, just the traffic running,” said O’Ward. “It makes such a big difference if you’re behind three cars or you’re behind 10 cars. Just looking forward to Sunday. (Saturday) was a good step. We want to go that much better.”
Much to the chagrin for IndyCar, the PJ1 used for NASCAR was still an issue where he didn’t ran that surface area. However, a few things O’Ward saw improvements between last June to this first leg of the doubleheader were both tire deg and aero.
“I think they made the racing a little bit better, especially from very high deg to low deg tires when guys have many laps on them or brand-new,” O’Ward commented. “I think we saw more passing around. It’s still really, really tough. Honestly, all around I just feel more confident, this is my second time, second race here in Texas. That makes a big difference.
“I think it was a step in the right direction. It’s not quite there to be able to make the race as crazy and chaotic like an Iowa. I feel like it was kind of like a Gateway in a way, in a speedway version obviously. There was some passing but not quite two lanes.”
As encouraging was scoring a third in front of his de facto home crowd, the Mexican racer is determined of moving up two spots.
“There was a lot of Pato sombreros and T-shirts. It was really cool to see,” O’Ward on his fans being in Fort Worth. “It’s great for us that we got the podium, but also to be able to celebrate with them here. But we want to go two spots better. I feel like we can do that.
“It’s going to be a longer race. We need to keep our heads on top of it. We make the race car a little bit better, maybe we can put up the fight to these other guys.”