Photo: Walter G. Arce, Sr./ASP, Inc.

Pit Cycles and Cautions Halt Arrow McLaren SP’s Ideal Night at Iowa

By Luis Torres, Staff Writer

The mission for Arrow McLaren SP was to battle for the race win during Saturday’s Iowa INDYCAR 250 at Iowa Speedway. That wasn’t the case as two caution periods and pit sequences denied both Oliver Askew and Pato O’Ward a shot for a 1-2 result, a goal they’ve hoped to have accomplished.

For much of the 250-lap race, it was O’Ward who had the strongest car among the two all night and appeared to be the only threat for pole sitter Josef Newgarden as O’Ward was hot on his tales. Especially, once long green flags began to unfold as he was able to cut the gap to under a second before green flag stops commenced.

Meanwhile, Askew was having a rather up-and-down race following a green flag stop on Lap 111. Shortly thereafter, Askew was trapped a lap down following Ed Carpenter going up the grey area and hit the Turn 1 wall on Lap 114. The driver/owner got out of his car and finished last for the 11th time in his NTT IndyCar Series career.

When the race resumed on Lap 127, O’Ward was running in second behind Newgarden while Askew had his work cut out for in the 13th spot. The duo were running aggressive, even making contact going into Turn 3. O’Ward’s left rear tire tangled onto the right front wing of Askew’s Chevrolet, but it didn’t effect them in the long run.

Like many competitors during the five-race, 15-day stretch, pit stops was a burden and it bit O’Ward, who had reported of having understeer. The burden took place on Lap 171 as O’Ward’s No. 5 Chevrolet underwent a front wing adjustment and exited, but the left rear tire wasn’t fully stalled.

O’Ward was told to stop his car, forcing the crew to back up the papaya orange and black machine. The damage was done as he had lost a lap, eliminating him from the hunt of taking down Newgarden.

It was further sealed on Lap 180 when Ryan Hunter-Reay had a little déjà vu after making inside wall contact of pit exit for the second straight night. This time, it ended his race and brought out the second caution of the race.

Along with the cycle of green flag stops, the caution period also saw Askew back on the lead lap and leading 10 laps. This was because Askew had last pitted on Lap 111, but once pit road opened on Lap 189, Askew made his final stop and gave up the lead to Newgarden, who went on to win the race.

The race resumed and when it was all set and done, Askew crossed the line for a solid sixth which was the best among the rookie class and regained command in the Rookie of the Year standings by one point over Alex Palou.

“You can’t complain about two top 10s and especially my first podium. After yesterday, it was hard to sleep with all the adrenaline. Just had to focus and get back to it today. Really proud of Arrow McLaren SP, Chevrolet and everyone on this team,” said Askew.

“I know Pato (O’Ward) had a really good shot at a podium and a win there, so definitely on the right track. Two podiums in two race weekends for us. We have quick fast cars and looking forward to the next few races to keep the momentum going and really have a good run at the rookie of the year championship. All in all, a great weekend. A big thanks to everybody that showed up tonight and the fans watching at home.”

O’Ward on the other hand ended up the first car a lap down in 12th, citing that Saturday was one of those ‘what could have been’ moments.

“Yesterday, I think we started off the weekend well. In the second race, the best way to sum it up is ‘what could have been,’” said O’Ward. “We had the pace; we were strong. I made up positions to be fighting at the front. In the end, it was not meant to be for us, but we’re going to continue pushing to finish strong at Mid-Ohio.”

After six rounds, O’Ward sits fourth in the championship trail, now 82 markers behind points leader Scott Dixon. Askew sits 12th, but only three points behind Alexander Rossi to crack the top-10.

The next round of the NTT IndyCar Series will be at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course in Lexington, Ohio on August 9th.

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From the Pacific Northwest, Luis is a University of Idaho graduate with a Bachelor's degree in Broadcasting and Digital Media. Ever since watching the 2003 Daytona 500, being involved in auto racing is all he's ever dreamed of doing. He's also covered Idaho Athletics and high school football as both a writer and videographer. Additionally, he spent 2017 writing several racing columns as an independent journalist. Luis does video and photography, and is a fan of Seattle sports, a music critic and a motivator who wants to impact people's lives.