Patricio O’Ward is pursuing a short-term fix to his ride-free situation that might develop into a full-season deal.
The 19-year-old Mexican, who announced his split with the Harding Steinbrenner Racing outfit on Monday after the team was unable to procure a running budget for the Indy Lights champion, has contacted almost every team in the paddock over the last 24 hours to inquire about their interest and any vacancies that might exist.
With the $1 million advancement prize from Indy Lights in hand and a modest amount of additional funding he’s found to offer, O’Ward is remaining positive in a stressful situation.
“I know there are options out there, so it’s just finding which one is the best,” he told RACER. “Most of the powerhouse teams are full already, so it probably means working with one of the smaller teams, but that isn’t a bad thing at all. We can win races together. My goal is to get from St. Petersburg through the Indy 500. I want to strike a deal to do those six races, and hopefully, we do well and that allows me and the team to find sponsors to keep going to Detroit, and Texas, and the rest of the races.”
Time is the resource O’Ward lacks more than any other.
“Being in a car is so important, and I can’t be greedy; it’s so late in the game, I’ll be lucky with whatever I can get,” he continued. “The thinking here is to get the first six races secured, which goes through May, and that gives us the time we need right now, because that’s the thing we’re lacking, to have February, March, April, and even May to meet with sponsors and put the money together to keep going after the Indy 500.”
O’Ward clarified one aspect of the split with HSR that explains why he’s getting a late start on finding new sponsors.
“I did not have to bring one dollar to the team, other than my Indy Lights prize money,” he said. “I could have, and I would have received a percentage, but the team told me everything would have been taken care of. Even so, I’ve had so many meetings in Mexico to meet with companies and worked the whole offseason trying to help in any way, so I’ll keep talking with them to see what we can develop.”
Although hopes existed for O’Ward to join Andretti Autosport, Carlin Racing and Juncos Racing would appear to be the most likely destinations for the Monterrey native, with Dale Coyne Racing a possible third option. Until he can ink a new deal, he’ll look to the words of encouragement coming in through social media to keep his spirits high.
“It’s meant the world to me to have people I know, people I’ve never met before, and all kinds of people saying they’re behind me,” he said. “It’s a hard time, and when things are tough, you see who’s behind you, and I’ve heard from so many people who want to see me succeed.”