By Luis Torres, Staff Writer
PORTLAND, Ore. – No driver from Mexico has ever led the NTT IndyCar Series championship this deep into the season. Not even Adrian Fernandez 21 years ago when he was in the title mix as he never led the championship trail.
That all changed last month at Gateway when Pato O’Ward took the points lead away from Alex Palou. O’Ward finished second while Palou was collected in a multi-car accident. With just three rounds remaining, the gap between them is 10 points heading into the Grand Prix of Portland.
Rather than focusing on aspiring to be the first Mexican champion in INDYCAR, it’s all about taking things a step at a time for O’Ward. More so when it’s an all-around team effort, requiring his No. 5 Arrow McLaren SP crew to be competitive and win races.
“That’s the best thing we can do. We have to focus on sessions and need to execute. I’m not the only one that make things happen,” said O’Ward Friday.
“The strategist, the guys in the pits and engineer have to their part. We need to roll off the truck as strong as we can to be efficient with changes. I’m very grateful to be in the position that I’m in.”
O’Ward added that while it’s easy to get lost in the intense pressure of being in the title mix, it’s crucial for everyone to enjoy the moment.
Once business begins to pick up, winning is all that matters. No more racking up as many points as possible, but the first to take the checkered flag.
“This being my first championship fighting, but also the team,” said the season’s two-time winner. “It’s a first experience for all of us. It’s really easy to get lost in the pressure, but I think we need to get back to our simple roots.
“Why are we doing this? We’re doing this because we love it and have to enjoy it,” O’Ward continued.
“We have to race. I know everybody says ‘points, points, points!’ To be fair, the guys that we’re fighting win races. If we want to fight against them, we need to be winning races as well. We’re here to win. We’re not here trying to be fifth.
“Obviously, you have to be smart and aware of who you’re racing depending on which part of the race it is. At the end of the day, I want to win.”