After his teammate Felix Rosenqvist’s brutal accident on Saturday, Patricio O’Ward would dedicate his win on Sunday in his honor. The second-year Mexican driver now has his second win of the season after winning the season opener in Texas. Even more importantly, O’Ward now sits as the IndyCar Series points lead at the official halfway mark of the season. More on O’Ward and the rest of the IndyCar field here in this recap of the second and final race at Belle Isle.
O’Ward Wins With Back to Back Podiums
After a pole effort on Saturday did not yield a winning result, O’Ward flipped his own script on Sunday. He qualified 15th but was able to make his way into the top five with just under 15 laps remaining. A Romain Grosjean car fire would force a caution with 11 laps remaining, and O’Ward would get a shot to win in a seven-lap shootout. He would immediately pass Graham Rahal on a bold pass at the start/finish line to get into fourth place. O’Ward would then get by Alex Palou for third, then Colton Herta for second in the ensuing three laps.
With three laps remaining, O’Ward took advantage of Josef Newgarden getting extremely loose off turn six and decided to make his move. He would get by Newgarden, but not before the two drivers made contact at a crisp 150 plus miles per hour. Luckily, this did not result in a wreck, however. Once O’Ward got by Newgarden it was game, set, and match, and he was off to his second win of the season.
— NTT INDYCAR SERIES (@IndyCar) June 13, 2021
Now O’Ward holds the IndyCar Series points lead midway into the season by one point over Indianapolis 500 runner-up Palou. When asked if he can believe he is leading the points by Marty Snider, he simply said “Yes I can.” O’Ward is certainly a confident 22-year-old but has the talent and results to back up his words. O’Ward also made sure to dedicate his win to his teammate Rosenqvist, who had a brutal wreck on Saturday, and missed Sunday’s action.
Q: "You're the Championship leader. Can you believe that?"
A: "Yes, I can." – @patriciooward
— NTT INDYCAR SERIES (@IndyCar) June 13, 2021
Newgarden Dominance Cut Short
The two-time IndyCar Series Champion found himself qualifying in pole position during the morning hours on Sunday. He would absolutely dominate the wide majority of Sunday’s race, leading 67 out of 70 laps. Unfortunately, those three laps he didn’t lead were the final three laps in the race. O’Ward, who was on white tires, made short work of Newgarden who was on reds and then took off from the field. To Newgarden’s credit, he was able to hold off charges from both Palou and Herta to secure a second-place result.
To this point, Newgarden has finished second place three times this season. Being on Sunday in Detroit, the second race at Texas Motor Speedway, and at the GP of St. Petersburg. Despite the lack of a win, Newgarden still maintains a top five points spot at the midway point. He also has numerous tracks left of the schedule that he has historically been great at. Keep an eye on him next week at Road America, then later at Mid-Ohio, and Gateway.
Herta Comes Up Short
Herta found himself in a great spot to potentially win on Sunday, but he let it literally slip and slide away. While trying to make a rather bold pass on the outside of O’Ward into turn two, he would lock up the brakes and overshoot the corner. All would not be lost, however, as Herta somehow kept his Gainbridge Honda out of the tire barrier ahead.
The downside was that he would end falling into the clutches of Palou in fourth. Despite a last-lap charge, he would end up just over a car length short of a podium. A lowlight on a day where he looked great otherwise. Herta, eight races in, has just one podium result, a win in St. Petersburg, but also five sub-top-ten efforts.
Youth Movement Marks Their Flag
For those that for whatever reason, are still not convinced that the IndyCar youth movement had arrived, believe this. Halfway into this season, three out of the five drivers who are in the top five in points are all under the age of 23 and have a combined four career wins. They are O’Ward, Palou, and Rinus VeeKay, and those four wins have all come within the last two months. Not even mentioning Herta, who still sits top ten in points with a shakey season.
Those former three drivers have the upper hand on IndyCar’s veteran delegation in the top five, being Newgarden and Scott Dixon. Both combined have a meager 69 career wins and eight championships. It will be interesting to see how both drive into this second half of the season. Dixon has just one win but sits only 36 points back of O’Ward which isn’t relatively much. Newgarden has yet to win this season, despite having four wins in each of the last two. As of now, he sits 51 points out of first, also not an impossible hill to climb with eight races remaining. Regardless this is shaping up to be an excellent championship bout.
Follow Jack Gaffney on Twitter @JackGaffneyPTST
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