McLaren left stunned by sudden lack of LBGP qualifying pace

The Arrow McLaren team had high expectations for qualifying at Long Beach after Pato O’Ward paced Friday’s practice session, but an unproductive morning session on Saturday foretold what took place while setting the grid for Sunday’s 85-lap race.

O’Ward’s teammate Alexander Rossi was the best of the Arrow McLaren trio—newcomer Theo Pourchaire wasn’t likely to feature—in 10th, and the situation worsened in qualifying when O’Ward and Rossi failed to make it into the Firestone Fast 12. Rossi topped the roster with a run to 13th, one spot ahead of a bewildered O’Ward in 14th. Pourchaire rounded out the group in 22nd.

“That was a tough one,” said Rossi, a winner in 2018 and 2019 at his home-state race. “I don’t know how we go from the some of the strength we had in practice yesterday to where we ended up today. This series is wild; you never know what you’re going to get.”

O’Ward shared in the confusion.

“We just didn’t have the pace. I have no real explanation for that,” O’Ward said. “I thought we were going to be able to transfer, but I think we went the wrong direction in practice two and missed the window a little bit. It’s a good thing that we have a fresh set of green [tires] for the race tomorrow. It will be tough to make the climb, but if we can get things dialed in, then we can do it.”

Team principal Gavin Ward tried to find the positives among the negatives.

“These challenges become opportunities to learn and get better, and that’s what we’ll focus on,” he said. “Theo did a good job; he’s been thrown in the deep end here and he’s just been building things up. He beat everyone he realistically probably could have beaten there. We have an opportunity to learn an awful lot tomorrow, so let’s see what we can do in the race.”

Story originally appeared on Racer