Pato O’Ward captures his first IndyCar victory of 2022 season with a nifty pass at Barber

Pato O’Ward won the Honda Grand Prix of Alabama at Barber Motorsports Park, continuing his rebound Sunday from a slow start to the NTT IndyCar Series season

The Arrow McLaren SP driver made a sublime pass of pole-sitter Rinus VeeKay in Turn 5 a lap after both drivers’ final pit stops on Lap 61 of 90.

O’Ward inherited the lead when defending race winner and series champion Alex Palou pitted on Lap 64, and the Mexican led the final 36 laps for his third career victory and first in nearly a year.

Palou finished second, followed by VeeKay, Will Power and Scott Dixon.

It was the first win since June 13, 2021 in Detroit for O’Ward, a hopeful championship who started the season with a 12th in the Grand Prix of St. Petersburg and a 15th at Texas Motor Speedway amid a plethora of mistakes by driver and team.

But O’Ward began a turnaround by finishing fifth after starting 11th in the Grand Prix of Long Beach, and he told NBC Sports a few days later that he was ready to refocus after starting the season “with so much noise” because of his desire for a new contract.

His new deal with McLaren now seems imminent, and O’Ward will head into May at Indianapolis Motor Speedway with the momentum to be pegged as a serious contender for his first Indy 500 win on May 29.

The complexion of the race significantly changed on Lap 32 when the first yellow flag waved after Callum Ilott’s No. 77 Chevy was stuck in a Turn 9 gravel trap from running off course while trying to pass Helio Castroneves.

The caution played right into the hands of pole-sitter VeeKay, who was on a two-stop strategy and had pitted just two laps earlier. The Ed Carpenter Racing driver cycled into the lead ahead of 16 other drivers on the two-stop strategy: O’Ward, Scott McLaughlin, Palou, Alexander Rossi, Felix Rosenqvist, Graham Rahal, Dixon, Takuma Sato, Power, Christian Lundgaard, Devlin DeFrancesco, Simon Pagenaud, Dalton Kellett and David Malukas.

Josef Newgarden, who had been aiming for a $1 million bonus for winning his third consecutive race, restarted in 17h as the first of the drivers who were on a three-stop strategy that effectively was blunted by the timing of the yellow. Other drivers who were on a three-stop strategy: Colton Herta, Marcus Ericsson Romain Grosjean, Conor Daly, Jack Harvey, Kyle Kirkwood and Castroneves.

STORY WILL BE UPDATED

Pato O’Ward captures his first IndyCar victory of 2022 season with a nifty pass at Barber originally appeared on NBCSports.com

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