Improving the “extremely loose” car helped in second place

David Malsher-Lopez

The Mexican ace started fourth, passing Conor Daly for the third round on lap 16, just before the first warning of the day, and although he would lose this spot to a charging off-sequence Colton Herta, he pitted on lap 59, two laps ahead of Power, and his quick laps on fresh rubber were enough to see him easily get in front of the pole sitter’s car and challenge Newgarden.

Although he would be jumped just before half the distance by Marcus Ericsson and Power on a restart, and by Alex Palou on the final restart on lap 175 of the 250 laps, O’Ward never dropped below fourth. On lap 207 he passed Palou for third, a three-lap struggle with Power was resolved in his favor and he then had just over 30 laps to try and agree with leader Josef Newgarden.

However, the Iowa dominator was more decisive through traffic and had a six-second lead over the AMSP driver at the checkered flag.

“A really solid points day for us today,” said O’Ward, who is fifth in the championship, 59 points behind Ericsson with five races to go. “I thought we had a little more for Josef in the end. He was really strong. All of Penske’s cars were extremely strong.

“It was about what else we can do with them to just have a chance to get past them. I had to use my tires a little bit. I think Will was on the same train fighting with me and Palou, Marcus. So I think we used up our tires a little more than Josef did. In the end he had a little more to give.”

While he said he was happy with his car in the end, he admitted it “didn’t get off to a great start. We were just extreme, extremely loose … We have to see what we can do better tomorrow not to have that because it took a lot of pit stops to get it into a window where we could really attack instead of just a little bit of a passenger.”

Part of O’Ward’s problems, which allowed Newgarden to take a break on restarts, was that “Josef had a different attitude than us,” O’Ward said. “I’m pretty sure he was aware of that.

“So the team told me to do a certain thing, which I did. It was pretty awful and we were passed by two guys I think. On the next one I did the opposite, and it worked. Yeah, that’s hard to say, isn’t it? You don’t know who will lead you. You don’t know if you’re the one in charge. Obviously you’re going to do the best for whatever your gearing pattern is.

Teammate Felix Rosenqvist, just a week after scoring his first podium in Toronto, had been gutted to post his first retirement in Iowa when his car smashed sideways on lap 110 and crashed into the wall. That puts him outside the Top 10 in the championship.