O’Ward Is Series Leader Going Into Indy
A little more than a year and a half after making an impressive debut at age 15 by topping the time charts during testing at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course, Patricio "Pato" O’Ward this week will return to Indianapolis as leader of the Pro Mazda Championship Presented by Cooper Tires.
O’Ward and Team Pelfrey stablemate Aaron Telitz have taken a decisive lead in the championship chase and are seeking to match the feat of Santiago Urrutia, who last year clinched the title and a Mazda scholarship to assist in his graduation to Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires. The pair have finished first and second in each of the four races held so far this season and have every intention of continuing that form during two races on the 2.439-mile road course which will comprise the Pro Mazda Grand Prix of Indianapolis Presented by Cooper Tires.
O’Ward, who originally hails from Monterrey, Mexico, but is now attending school in San Antonio, Texas, has won three races, while Telitz, 24, from Birchwood, Wis., has one victory to his name.
“I’m really excited for Indy,” said O’Ward, who celebrated his 17th birthday last Friday. “Last year I had a very bad weekend there, so I’m looking forward to changing that around. I have great memories of the Chris Griffis Memorial Test in 2014 and I’m super-stoked to be coming back and leading the championship. My goal is to leave the weekend leading as well, with more of a comfortable gap in points. I have been preparing a lot and really want to bring some fantastic results to myself and Team Pelfrey.”
While O’Ward endured a tough time in the Indianapolis Grand Prix during his rookie Pro Mazda campaign in 2015, finishing sixth, 10th and fifth in the three races which comprised a busy weekend, Telitz enjoyed rather more success in the Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda with a pair of podium finishes.
A third Team Pelfrey charge, Weiron Tan, also plans on joining in the fun. The Malaysian earned one of his four wins last year at Indianapolis.
Ranged against the Team Pelfrey juggernaut will be a four-car stable from Brownsburg, Ind.-based Juncos Racing, which also claimed an Indianapolis win in 2015 with Timothé Buret. The Frenchman will not return this year but the Juncos charge likely will be headed by pre-season favorite Garret Grist, from Grimsby, Ont., Canada. Grist earned more championship points than anyone else during the second half of the 2015 campaign and rebounded from a torrid season opener in St. Petersburg by securing a pair of third-place finishes last month at Barber Motorsports Park.
Grist will be joined by Colorado’s Will Owen, who claimed a USF2000 win on the Indy road course in 2014, plus rookies Jake Parsons, from Australia, and Argentina’s Nicolas Dapero.
Cape Motorsports with Wayne Taylor Racing also has a strong pedigree at Indianapolis, having swept both races in 2014 with Scott Hargrove. The Florida-based team will be represented by two extremely talented youngsters in Frenchman Nico Jamin, who won both USF2000 Indy road course races last year en route to the championship and a Mazda Scholarship, and 2015 USF2000 runner-up Jake Eidson, from Littleton, Colo.
Two 60-minute test sessions at 10:15 a.m. and 3:15 p.m. EDT on Wednesday, May 11, will begin on-track activities, followed by a pair of 30-minute practice sessions on Thursday at 10:15 a.m. and 2:15 p.m. Qualifying will take place at 10:15 a.m. on Friday, followed by Race One at 1:55 p.m. Race Two will kick off the day’s racing action at 10:20 a.m. on Saturday, May 14. Live streaming shows of all sessions will be available on the Road To Indy TV App and at www.promazda.com and indycar.com.