Arrow McLaren driver Pato O’Ward would love to see an NTT INDYCAR SERIES race in his native Mexico, but for the time being Texas will suit him just fine as his home race.
O’Ward was born and raised in Monterrey, Mexico, before his family moved to San Antonio, Texas, when he was 11. He would spend his early teen years attending the TMI-Episcopal prep school on the outskirts of the city before departing to pursue his motorsports dream.
When O’Ward returns for Sunday’s PPG 375 (11:15 a.m. CT, TV: NBC & Peacock, Radio: INDYCAR Radio Network, SiriusXM, 95.9 The Ranch-local), he definitely considers Texas Motor Speedway as his “home-away-from-home” race on the 17-race schedule. He already has three suites reserved for family and friends, and also created a grandstand ticket promotion to entice his fan to come and watch him compete in Fort Worth.
“Texas is very close to home,” said O’Ward, who drives the No. 5 Chevrolet for the three-car Arrow McLaren team. “It’s the closest I have to home, and I would love to have a race in Mexico hopefully in the future, but for now this is what I have as a home Grand Prix kind of way. I’ve got a bunch of people coming out, which is really, really cool to see. I can’t wait.”
It was apropos that the 23-year-old emerging superstar’s first career NTT INDYCAR SERIES victory came at Texas Motor Speedway. After securing a third-place finish in the first race of the 2021 doubleheader weekend, he earned his first victory the following day. O’Ward became the first Mexican driver to win an INDYCAR race since Adrian Fernandez in 2004.
“My win here is actually where I really saw a really big spike in, I guess, my presence and people just knew the name quite a bit more,” O’Ward said. “From there it has gradually grown, grown, grown, grown, grown. Obviously, it grows most when I win.
“It’s great to see their support. I’ve always said I think I have the most amazing group of fans. It doesn’t matter if I’m in Portland or if I’m in Long Beach, they go. It’s really, really cool to see. … This is the closest we have to Mexico now, so I’m pumped to see all the Mexican flags and have all the people come out to support me.”
O’Ward progressed through the open-wheel racing ranks with a road and street course background, but has become quite adept on the ovals. Of the five oval races last season, O’Ward finished fourth or better in all but one (15th at Texas). The oval success was highlighted by a win at Iowa and runner-up finish in the Indy 500.
“I have really grown to love what it is like to race at superspeedways,” he said. “It is definitely a different skill to what it is on road courses and, obviously, street courses. The way you have to approach it is different as well because the risk is that much more and the speeds, like I said, are very quick. So, it’s just a very different way to what I grew up racing to get to INDYCAR.”
In the midst of his fourth full season, O’Ward has recorded four wins, 14 podiums and five poles in just 56 career starts. He also has finished seventh or better in the series championship the last three seasons, including a best of third in 2021.
He nearly had his fifth career win in the season-opening Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg, but an engine mishap while holding the lead late in the race doused his chances. O’Ward would have to settle for a runner-up finish to Chip Ganassi Racing’s Marcus Ericsson.
Two-time and defending NTT INDYCAR SERIES champion Will Power, an 18-year veteran of the sport, has been quite impressed from what he already has seen from O’Ward.
“Pato is an amazing talent, one of the quickest guys I’ve seen come into the series,” Power said. “I’m sure he’s going to be a (series) champion, Indy 500 champion in the future which is really good for the series. … It’s great to have people like Pato in the series. He brings a huge fan base from Mexico.”
O’Ward and his fellow NTT INDYCAR SERIES competitors will take to the track Saturday for practice and qualifying. The opening one-hour practice will begin at 8 a.m. and be followed by qualifying at 11:15 a.m. Split-field practices will run from 12:45-1:15 p.m. and then a final one-hour full-field session will begin at 1:30 p.m. The weekend culminates with the PPG 375, the second race of the NTT INDYCAR SERIES season.
The season-opening race weekend at Texas Motor Speedway also will feature the SPEEDYCASH.COM 250 NASCAR CRAFTSMAN Truck Series race Saturday beginning at 3:30 p.m.
Ticket information and online purchases are available at www.texasmotorspeedway.com.
Texas Motor Speedway’s 2023 events schedule consists of everything from the April 1-2 NTT INDYCAR SERIES/NASCAR CRAFTSMAN Truck Series doubleheader and the Sept. 23-24 NASCAR Playoffs weekend, car shows and competitions and the Ducks Unlimited Expo, the four-day Hwy 30 Music Fest and Bandas y Trocas Hispanic concert and truck show, and then wrapping up the year with the family-favorite and speedway tradition Gift of Lights holiday light show.
Season tickets and camping for Texas Motor Speedway’s 2023 major event season are on sale now. Save up to 33 percent versus buying individual tickets, get the best seat selection and more. All-new reduced rates are available for the GEICO Infield, GEICO VIP and WinStar World Casino & Resort Lone Star Circle camping areas. Click HERE for more information and to purchase season tickets.