By Aaron Bearden, Open Wheel Editor
NEWTON, Iowa — Patricio O’Ward entered Iowa Speedway in need of a strong run to close back up to Colton Herta in the Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires championship.
He emerged with one of the most dominant drives of his Mazda Road to Indy career.
O’Ward led all 100 laps from pole to soar to a dominant win in Sunday’s Mazda Iowa 100, beating out Herta by 2.826 seconds as he took the checkered flag. The triumph was O’Ward’s fourth victory of the 2018 season, tying him with Herta for the most wins this season.
“I just tried to keep the gap steady,” O’Ward said of his win. “They were telling me every lap. Once it got to 4.5 seconds I said, ‘You know what? I’m done pushing. I want to win.’ So I just calmed it down a little bit. I knew they weren’t going to catch me, so I let off a little bit.
“It was a nice, comfortable win for sure.”
Herta rolled off with O’Ward on the front row, but a strong opening segment from Santi Urrutia allowed the Uruguayan to rise from fifth ahead of Herta to second.
From there on the race became a single-file affair. Aside from one passing attempt from Aaron Telitz on Victor Franzoni for sixth, no one other than Herta and Urrutia could battle on-track – instead racing in a single-file procession within a few seconds of each other.
Urrurita held Herta at bay for more than 90 laps, and for a time it appeared he would maintain a much-needed second to keep his championship fight intact. But Herta was finally able to overtake the Belardi Auto Racing shoe with a strong move on Lap 94 to rise back up to second.
The Andretti-Steinbrenner Racing / Curb driver then tried to close the gap to O’Ward, but he ultimately ran out of time. Herta leaves Iowa with an eight-point advantage over O’Ward for the championship lead. Urrutia sits third, 49 points off-pace.
“I got a good run, I think he made a little mistake in Turn 2,” Herta said. “I was able to get to the inside and keep him up in the corner, hold the position. From then on I think we had the best car. We ran down Pato so quickly in those last five laps. I think if I did a better job trying to pass Santi early, I could have won the race.”
Urrutia held on to third to round out the podium. Ryan Norman and Dalton Kellett rounded out the top five, with Franzoni and Telitz completing the Indy Lights field.
Sunday’s race will be aired on NBCSN on a same-day tape delay at 11 p.m. ET.
Next up for Indy Lights is a trip to Toronto, where they’ll practice and contest two races from July 13-15.
Mazda Iowa 150 Results
- Patricio O’Ward
- Colton Herta
- Santi Urrutia
- Ryan Norman
- Dalton Kellett
- Victor Franzoni
- Aaron Telitz