Pato O’Ward drove a flawless race in wet conditions to win Sunday’s Indy Lights race and sweep the weekend for his Andretti Autosport team.
Starting from the pole on a wet track with drizzle coming down, O’Ward jumped to an early lead over Victor Franzoni and maintained it to score his third victory of 2018.
The 18-year-old Mexican captured the season opener at St. Pete and was never challenged here at Barber Motorsports Park.
“I’m really surprised how much grip the track had,” O’Ward said. “I actually thought I had a problem early, because I thought there was no way the track had that much grip! Victor put some pressure on but after the first few laps, I got into a rhythm and really pushed the Cooper tires hard. Once I had a big gap, I could back off a little bit because I didn’t want to end up in the kitty litter.
“This feels great. It feels like 2016 (when O’Ward won six of his first seven Pro Mazda races, including both Barber events), but now, I have the chance to write a different ending.”
Franzoni finished second for his first Indy Lights podium, six seconds behind O’Ward, with Colton Herta rounding out the podium in third place.
“I’m so happy to get my first Indy Lights podium!” Franzoni said. “We’ve been fourth or fifth and now we got up to second. This was my first time in the Indy Lights car in the rain, and definitely my first time in a car this fast in these conditions. Second was my best qualifying of the year, which was great, but I was slow early in the race and couldn’t catch Pato after that.
“But we’ve broken through now and gotten our first podium so from now on it will be different so I’m excited to see what happens the next few rounds.”
Said Herta: “It was difficult because it wasn’t super wet, but it wasn’t really dry. There was no point during the race that we could have switched to slick tires. I was behind Santi for a while and by the time I got by, Pato was gone, so there was no point to really push it to try and reach him without a yellow. We didn’t get the conditions quite right so I had a bit of understeer but I’m happy to bring the car home and get third-place points.”
Aaron Telitz, whose string of misfortunes continued with a first-lap incident on Saturday, finished all 30 laps and came in fourth, passing teammate Santi Urrutia to complete his first race of the season.
Watch the full race replay here: