By Pato O’Ward, Driver Columnist
Editor’s note: Pato O’Ward will be contributing to Motorsports Tribune selectively throughout the 2018 Indy Lights presented by Cooper Tires season. The 18-year-old Texas-based Mexican racer pilots the No. 27 Mazda/Dallara IL-15 for Andretti Autosport. A Rolex 24 at Daytona winner and series champion in the Prototype Challenge class a season ago in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship, O’Ward will be looking for similar success during his rookie campaign in the top rung of the Mazda Road to Indy.
Drive, Determination and Hunger. Those three things are what got me through a successful month of racing in July and really what has carried me throughout this entire season.
We had three race weekends in July and they all went almost perfect to plan! It was crucial for myself and my crew that we performed well every single weekend. I knew if I just put my head down and focused, I could make big things happen and really hone in on a championship run. I was very optimistic going into this stint of the season and my goal was to capture every single pole and every single win. We just missed sweeping the entire month – by missing out on two poles [five total] and one race win.
All in all, it was a month to dream of to be honest and I accomplished the goals I set for myself. I couldn’t be happier with how the month went and how the championship is shaping out to be. Now, my focus has shifted to Gateway and closing out the championship.
While the championship isn’t over yet, I’m happy with how it’s shaped out, and I plan on keeping it this way until the season is over. With that being said, it feels rewarding to be leading the points in my rookie season. It’s not an easy championship to win and it hasn’t been easy beating the other drivers in the field. It doesn’t make a difference that there are only seven cars in the field because in my opinion, all seven drivers are competitive and each race weekend, it could be any one of us on the podium.
The plan for the last two race weekends is to just remain consistent and not give up. After having some bad luck at different points in the season, it would’ve been easy for me to make excuses and get down on myself, but I refused to do that and well, it’s paying off. We’ve been battling the entire season and it’s worked out for us. I’m comfortable in the car and I love being able to show what I can do in a race car.
We have a few weeks “off” but that doesn’t mean I’m not working. I’m taking advantage of my time out of the car traveling to Mexico City and other places, working on potential sponsors for the remainder of the year. If I’m not racing or training, I’m filling my time meeting people and just talking to them – trying to build relationships and get them excited about racing.