Arrow McLaren and Pato O'Ward's Indy 500: ‘Damn, this really hurts’

INDIANAPOLIS – Pato O’Ward had laid it all on the line in the 108thIndianapolis 500 in his end-of-the-race battle with Josef Newgarden for the victory . He had been in this position once before, when he was racing with Marcus Ericsson for the win in the 2022 Indy 500, falling just short to finish second.

After that race, O’Ward was disappointed, but happy that he had come so close to getting the Indy 500 win.

Sunday night at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, O’Ward was pretty much devastated.

He battled Newgarden all the way to the checkered flag but once again fell just short.

This time, the heartbreak was wrenching because he had timed what he thought would be his winning move against Newgarden.

It came on Lap 199 when he passed Newgarden for the lead on the frontstretch. The crowd of more than 340,000 fans roared with approval for the driver who is the most popular in IndyCar.

But on the 200th and final lap, Newgarden got a run on O’Ward’s No. 5 Chevrolet and passed him entering Turn 3.

O’Ward was unable to make one last move, and Newgarden won the Indianapolis 500 for the second year in a row.

He became the first back-to-back Indy 500 winner since Helio Castroneves in 2001-02.

Four times in the final eight laps, Newgarden and O’Ward traded the lead.

Teammate Alexander Rossi finished fourth to give Arrow McLaren two drivers in the top five. That should have been worth a celebration, but this one was more pain than pride.

Gavin Ward - Racing Director
Gavin Ward - Racing Director

“Damn it hurts to not get a win out of that,” Arrow McLaren team principal Gavin Ward said. “But we'll get there.”

There were two other Arrow McLaren drivers in the Indianapolis 500. Callum Ilott finished 11th in the No. 6 Chevrolet, involved in a few of the incidents throughout the race, but still finished in the top third of the field.

The other was 2021 NASCAR Cup Series champion Kyle Larson, who started fifth and was in the running for a top-10 finish before he was penalized by IndyCar Race Control for speeding on pit road on Lap 131.

The ensuing drive-through penalty put him one lap down, but Larson battled back to finish 18th and complete all 200 laps. 
Because the race was delayed by rain for four hours, Larson decided to skip the start of the Coca-Cola 600 NASCAR Cup Series race at Charlotte Motor Speedway and make the Indianapolis 500 his priority.

He quickly left the Indianapolis Motor Speedway afterward and flew to the Concord Regional Airport in North Carolina. Larson arrived at Charlotte Motor Speedway at 9:31 p.m. ET and was prepared to take over the No. 5 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet, started by Justin Allgaier. But the race was in a rain delay and never restarted.

“I would definitely love to be back next year,” Larson said in Indianapolis. “I feel like I learned a lot throughout the race. I made a couple mistakes early there with the restart. Not sure what I wrong did there but somehow got myself into third. I felt like I did a really good job on the restarts and learned a lot. Definitely feel good about knowing what I would need different for the balance when I come back to help runs and stuff.

“Then obviously I smoked the left front or something on a green flag stop and killed our opportunity. Proud to finish but pretty upset at myself. Just could have executed a better race. You never know what could happen. Bummed at myself, but huge thank you to Arrow McLaren, Hendrick Motorsports, Hendrick Automotive Group, Rick Hendrick, Chevrolet, Valvoline, everybody that’s a part of this.

“We’ll go hop on the jet and see if I can get into the 600 somehow.”

Larson’s departure was quick, but he left behind the commiseration that the rest of his team felt. It was a mix of pain and pride.

They were proud of the effort, but the pain of coming close made it difficult.

Syndication: The Indianapolis Star
Syndication: The Indianapolis Star

“The whole Arrow McLaren team worked so hard,” McLaren Racing CEO Zak Brown said. “What a great result. Once we get over a little of that bitter defeat, we should be very proud of everything we did for this Month of May.

“But it hurts. What’s that phrase, ‘second place is the first loser.’ Of course it does, but we have to recognize second as a pretty good result.

“Pato went for it, and it was pretty damn close.

“The whole team did a fantastic job.”

Brian Barnhart is the Arrow McLaren general manager. He also calls race strategy for Alexander Rossi.

A second- and fourth-place finish should be cause for celebration. But when that comes in the Indianapolis 500, the impact of losing makes it feel worse.

“It just showed what this place is,” Barnhart told “It's the greatest race in the world for a reason, and to have the two horses we had at the end, awfully proud of the group as a whole.

“Arrow McLaren Chevrolet team did a spectacular job. Pato had a little different strategy than us and was able to overcut and do a shorter stop, because he had some more fuel,” Barnhart said. “Alex did a great job saving what he could, and we had both cars in position to contend for the win there and just came up a whisker short.”

For Rossi, fourth is a solid performance but not one to celebrate.

Syndication: Journal-Courier
Syndication: Journal-Courier

“The only thing that matters in this race is winning,” Rossi said. “That’s what this race is – 500 miles – and you never know what is going to happen. It was ultimately an amazing show for everyone.

“We were so happy to get this race in, a full 500-mile race, on Memorial Day [weekend].”

Ward oversaw the operation for the four-car effort. He had reasons to be proud, but more reasons to feel pain.

“This sport, this race, this is the most special race in the world,” Ward told “It hurts because it's supposed to.

“You’ve got to put your cars up in that position, and sometimes it’s going to go your way and sometimes it’s not.

“If you are Josef Newgarden and Team Penske, it’s a well-deserved win.”

Ward was asked how long it will take for the pain to go away?

“Today hurts because it's supposed to,” Ward said. “But the pain is already going away, honestly.

“In racing, you've got to somehow handle the highs and lows.

“And this race had them in spades, didn't it?

“But honestly, it's fun. I just appreciate getting to do this for a living.”

Syndication: The Indianapolis Star
Syndication: The Indianapolis Star

The fans showed their appreciation and love for O’Ward. When he passed Newgarden for the lead on Lap 199, the crowd cheered with a mighty roar.

When Newgarden passed him back for the win one lap later, the crowd response wasn’t quite as enthusiastic.

“Everybody here, the IndyCar community, all the IndyCar fans, people from Indianapolis have really made it feel like home here to me,” O’Ward told “I'm so thankful for that. I'm so grateful for that.

“At the end of the day, I hope I put smiles on kids' faces and people that were here out to support us. I hope that they go home tonight happy with the show that we gave them because I feel like it was definitely not a boring race.

“We had to fight for our result today harder than I've ever had to fight for it, and I think that's why it's just that much more emotional, because I put everything into today.”

When does the pain go away for Pato O’Ward?

“I think in a few hours,” he said. “I feel very proud of what I did today. I really do. It's just after all that work and all those -- just very risky kind of choices that I had to make in order to put myself in that position, it's just like, oh, it just stings to not be able to just finish it. But it is what it is.

“I know we'll be there next year.”

Follow Bruce Martin on Twitter at @BruceMartin_500