The AMSP #5 team took home a huge haul of points in the Iowa double-header finishing second in the first race and winning the second. This helped to offset O’Ward’s extraordinary back-to-back mechanical misfortunes in Road America and Mid-Ohio that resulted in DNFs.
With five races to go, he lies fifth in the championship, 36 points behind Marcus Ericsson, 28 behind Will Power, and just two behind Josef Newgarden and Scott Dixon. Defending champion Alex Palou is a further eight points in arrears.
“We knew we needed to execute this weekend, just to have a shot at the championship,” said O’Ward, who has now scored two wins this year, after conquering Barber Motorsports Park in April. “We’ve let a lot of points go from us because of one thing or another. We executed. The guys were great in the pits. I did my job in the car.”
Regarding his title prospects, he commented: “I think the biggest thing is, everybody that’s fighting for the championship is having good weekends. No one is having bad weekends. For us, we’ve thrown away and given away an easy 100 points, whether it was a strategy or… I won’t mention the other ones.
“We’ve just thrown away a lot of points that would have put us in a way better position than where we are right now. I have no other choice but to try and claw back. We can just be more risky than others.”
O’Ward admitted that having finished fourth in the championship in 2020, and third in ’21, only second or first interests him now.
“I really don’t care – four, five and six for me doesn’t really change anything,” he said. “I don’t care for sixth or fourth. We need to go for one and two because we’ve already got a four and a three.
“The only way to do that is to win because you’re not going to get those points by being consistently in the top five. I think if you’re in the lead, it would be a different story, but we’re not.”
The five remaining rounds on the 2022 IndyCar schedule comprise three road courses (Indy, Portland, Laguna Seca), one oval (Gateway’s 1.25-mile World Wide Technology Raceway) and one street course (Nashville). O’Ward sounded confident of his car’s form at least at Gateway, where he has finished on the podium in the last three IndyCar races.
“I think the team has a great package in the ovals, I think that’s definitely our strong suit,” he said. “We’re getting better in other areas. But just as a team I think we go to every oval believing that we can beat anybody and we’re going to have as good a package as anybody else.
“Going to other tracks is a little bit of a different story… I think we’ve done a good job strategy-wise in ovals, whether it’s a superspeedway or short oval. We don’t seem to have that in road courses, so I think there’s some work to do there.”
Photo by: Michael L. Levitt / Motorsport Images