Feature image: @autoracing1 on Twitter
After a double-header in Detroit, Pato O’Ward took the lead of the NTT Indycar Series championship after taking his second win of the season following a late charge in the final few laps of the race. Along with the championship lead, he becomes the first driver on the grid to win twice in 2021 with every other race being won by a different driver up until now.
O’Ward started the weekend off strongly, beating the experienced Alexander Rossi to his second pole position by eight hundredths of a second. Late on in the top 12 shootout, it was a four-way battle between Romain Grosjean, Ed Jones, Rossi and O’Ward for the front row of the grid, with the #5 Arrow McLaren SP stopping the clocks on a blistering lap time of 1:15.577.
The race was paused for a while after Felix Rosenqvist suffered a terrifying crash at turn 6 of lap 28. The Swede’s throttle on his #7 Arrow McLaren SP got stuck mid corner, sending him into the tyre wall at full tilt. Indycar’s medical response team were straight on the incident and Felix was taken straight to the track’s medical facilities.
After a disappointing run at the Indy 500 a fortnight ago, Will Power looked set turn it all around after leading most of the race which looked certain to be his first win of the season. Disaster struck with just five laps remaining after Romain Grosjean ended up in the wall at turn 9, consequently bringing out the red flag. After returning to the baking hot pit lane, Team Penske were unable to restart his #12 Chevrolet which sent him down the pecking order to the back of the field.
The lead was inherited by Marcus Ericsson who up until that point had not lead an Indycar race so late into the proceedings. He kept his call for the remainder of the laps, which saw chaos erupt behind him for the final podium positions. Ericsson crossed the line for his first Indycar Series victory, and also his first since the 2013 GP2 season where he won at the Nürburgring. Rinus VeeKay eventually took P2 with pole-sitter O’Ward in P3.
In an almost identical way to how Race 1 panned out, Race 2 also saw a late change of lead following a caution period. Romain Grosjean jumped out of his #51 Dale Coyne Racing with 12 laps to go, running after a fire extinguisher to put the flames on his left front brake pad out.
Up until this point, Josef Newgarden had pretty much controlled the race in it’s entirety but once the final caution was out he just couldn’t keep his rival cars behind him. O’Ward was sat in fifth at the restart, put quickly disposed of Graham Rahal and Alex Palou on the same lap.
Setting his sights on the leading pair of Newgarden in his #2 Team Penske Chevrolet and Colton Herta in his #26 Andretti Autosport Honda, he quickly caught up to them. A lap after getting past Rahal and Palou, the Mexican picked off Herta and was immediately on the tail of the leader.
On the exit of turn 7, Newgarden got out of shape which handed a golden opportunity to O’Ward which he didn’t hesitate to snatch and catapult himself into the lead of the race and subsequently, the championship. He is now just a point ahead of Spain’s Alex Palou, another youngster who saw his first win in Indycar earlier this season.
You can see the full championship standings here.