No regrets for Pato O’Ward, Arrow McLaren SP on strategy coming up short of Barber win


Though the strategy play ultimately was wrong, Arrow McLaren SP doesn’t have any regrets about the decision to pit Pato O’Ward three times Sunday at Barber Motorsports Park.

“We’ve certainly done all the post-event homework, and we really as a team felt like in that moment, we’re not quite sure we would have done anything different,” team president Taylor Kiel said during a Zoom news conference Wednesday.

After starting on pole position in the No. 5 Dallara-Chevrolet, O’Ward led 25 of 90 laps and finished fourth despite having the fastest car all weekend in the Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama. That blinding speed made a three-stop strategy the “primary target,” Kiel said.

But when two early caution flags led to eight of the first 11 laps being run under yellow, the tactical window opened, and Kiel said McLaren considered switching to two stops for O’Ward. Two stops were the call for the top three of Scott Dixon, Will Power and first-time winner Alex Palou, who said he was surprised when the top two starters, O’Ward and Alexander Rossi, pitted within the first 20 laps for the first of their three stops.

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Kiel, though, said there were a few mitigating circumstances in the 2021 season opener that kept the team on a three-stop strategy at Barber for Pato O’Ward.

“One thing we were struggling with, and everybody was struggling with, was a lack of telemetry early on due to some network issues within the facility,” Kiel said, referring to one of multiple power outages over the weekend at Barber that affected connectivity. “So we had no line of sight to anything that was going on from a car or systems point of view. Also, being the first car in line, we were a bit nervous about having any tire damage or punctures driving through a lot of that debris and chaos (from a six-car crash during the first lap) on the run down into Turn 5.

“So we were a bit nervous about that, and then we were receiving some messages that the rear tire life was going away. Factor all those things into play, and our primary car that we were racing was Rossi, and he opted for the three-stop right away, so we decided to cover.”

That early stop also took O’Ward off the tires that had raised doubts, and it allowed the rising star from Mexico to push without conserving fuel over the final 70 laps.

But the extra stop left O’Ward 3.9741 seconds behind Palou at the checkered flag.

“I think at the end of the race, over the full span, the two and three stops were within a couple of seconds of each other; you could throw a blanket over them,” Kiel said. “So we unfortunately weren’t on the right strategy, there’s no doubt about that. But at the moment with the information that we had, I think it was the right decision for the team.”

It was another near-miss for O’Ward, who came close to his first NTT IndyCar Series victory multiple times last year (notably at Road America and Gateway) during his first full season on the circuit.

He stuck an upbeat tone Wednesday, looking forward to Sunday’s Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg, where O’Ward finished second in his IndyCar debut last year and also won an Indy Lights race in 2018.

“We had a very solid start to the season,” O’Ward, 21, said. “Very, very quick in qualifying. We were the fastest car on track during the race. Unfortunately we didn’t make the perfect call on what strategy to take, but it’s such a tricky situation. When there’s yellows coming out, you don’t really know what’s going to happen. I come out of the weekend pleased with how the team was working, how the pit stops went. How we had great pace. I think we salvaged a great result.

“I think it was a great weekend. We showed we’re here to compete and to win races. We showed we’re not here to mess around.”

It isn’t the first time O’Ward has had the fastest car and come away empty-handed.

“It’s happened in Indy Lights, but there’s nothing you can do,” he said. “In Indy Lights, it was someone else punting me off the track. This time, it was not quite making the right call to cover the Ganassi cars on the two-stopper. It’s not like we had a terrible weekend. In IndyCar, it’s such a competitive series, that, like, fourth ain’t bad.

“We’re just going to regroup, and we’ll be ready to hammer down in St. Pete.”

Chase Sexton wins Triple Crown Anaheim 2 Supercross: Levi Kitchen unseats Jett Lawrence in 250s

Supercross Anaheim 2
Feld Motor Sports/MX Sports Pro Racing/Align Media

Chase Sexton won two of the three races in the Monster Energy Supercross Anaheim 2 Triple Crown, which was enough to overcome a fifth-place finish in Race 2 and give him the overall victory. It was the second Supercross win of his career.

“Super big night for me,” Sexton told NBC Sports’ Will Christien. “After last weekend with that being a struggle, I just need to come out here and stop the bleeding a little bit and I did that tonight.”

Sexton suffered a crash on Lap 1 of his heat, sending him into Last Chance Qualifier. The bad gate pick put him in a difficult position to start the race and he was able to climb to only fifth at the checkers.

At Anaheim 2, three riders entered the final race of the Triple Crown in a winner-take-all scenario. Sexton, Jason Anderson and Eli Tomac each had a shot at victory. It raised the intensity level for all riders in an evening that featured a lot of comers and goers.

Jason Anderson took the early lead in Race 3, which set him up for the overall victory. Sexton stalked and passed him midway through the race and then a minor mistake late allowed Webb to slip around as well. Anderson’s 5-1-3 gave him second overall.

“I had a tough couple of rounds, getting off that Anaheim 1 crash and then last week weekend I fumbled a little bit, but I’m excited to get back on the box and start moving forward,” Anderson told Jason Thomas.

Anderson finished seventh in the first two rounds of 2023.

RESULTS: How they finished for the 450 Main in Anaheim 2

Ken Roczen was the model of consistency in the opening rounds and at Anaheim 2. In three races so far this year, he’s gotten progressively better each time with a fifth in A1, a fourth last week in San Deigo and a third this week.

With results of 2-3-4, he earned his first podium of the season, which lands him fourth in the standings.

“This was hard earned,” Roczen said after the race. “I completely botched the start and then to have to work my way up. I only happen on the very last lap to step up here on the podium.”

Webb’s solid second-place finish in the third race allowed him to leapfrog several riders and finish fourth overall, but a seventh in Race 1 kept him off the podium. He improved in each race in Anaheim, however, with a 7-4-2.

With a 4-6-5, Dylan Ferrandis rounded out the top five.

The intensity of the race was a little too much for Tomac.

While battling side-by-side with Webb in Race 3 at the one-third mark, Tomac jumped wide and crashed hard. He fell to 14th, doing some damage to his bike in the process. He advanced only one position in that race to 13th. His first two races, a third and second, were strong enough to give him sixth overall. He retains the points lead, but it has shrunk to a gap of only four over Sexton and Webb.

Malcolm Stewart injured late in the week and was not able to mount.

Levi Kitchen became the first rider to unseat Jett Lawrence in the Triple Crown format at Anaheim 2 and won the overall with consistency. In his three races, Kitchen finished 4-2-2 to narrowly edge the winner of the first two races.

“This whole day; this is unbelievable. I took a few good slams in practice and I was down on myself,” Kitchen told NBC Sports Jason Thomas afterward. “The first moto I got a good start and got shuffled back, then I knew I just needed to be consistent.”

Jett Lawrence saved his best for last – which wasn’t hard given the struggles he experienced in the first two races.

Despite those problems, he entered Race 3 of the Triple Crown three points behind Kitchen after suffering a pair of disappointing races by his personal measuring stick. In the first and second 250 races of the night, Lawrence hit the ground. He dropped to the final rider in the running order in Race 2 with a Lap 1 fall. But in both races, he was able to overcome his mistake and close the gap so that he had a chance to take his first Triple Crown win of his career.

Click here for full 250 West Main Results

Lawrence rode to third in Race 1 and sixth in Race 2. In the final race of the night, Lawrence did all he could. He earned the holeshot, but when Kitchen fell in behind him, Lawrence’s fate was sealed. His 3-6-1 tied him in points with Stilez Robertson, but the tiebreaker goes to the final round and his win secured second-place.

“I can definitely say Triple Crowns are not my thing,” Lawrence told NBC Sports Will Christien. “We have one more to try and fix this, so hopefully we can get that done.”

Lawrence will move into the 450 class for the Lucas Oil Motocross outdoor season and his 250 record book will be closed.

The best news for Lawrence is the other riders who entered this round in the top three had a worse night, so Lawrence leaves Anaheim with a 16-point gap on Cameron McAdoo and 17 over RJ Hampshire.

Roberston finished 6-1-3 to take the final step of the podium.

“Getting that win in the second Main meant a lot,” Roberston told Thomas. “I wish I could have done a little better in the third one, but we’re still up here on the box.”

Mitchell Oldenburg used consistency to earn fourth in the overall. He finished 5-4-6.

After missing the Main last week in San Diego, Max Vohland finished 7-8-4 to round out the top five.

RJ Hampshire set himself up as the early favorite with his Race 1 win. In Race 2, it all fell apart. He fell in the sand section and damaged his bike, finishing last in that race. The final event of the night for the 250s provided only a 13th-place finish, leaving Hampshire deep in the points.

Cameron McAdoo hard crash in qualification, which was scary news for a team that has seen three of their riders sidelined with injury. McAdoo was never quite able to get his rhythm with an 8-7-5.

2023 Race Recaps

San Diego: Eli Tomac, Jett Lawrence double down
Anaheim 1: Tomac wins opener for the first time

Anaheim 2 coverage

Power Rankings Week 2
SuperMotocross tightens playoff schedule
Eli Tomac, Jett Lawrence go two-for-two in San Diego
Results and points after San Diego
Seth Hammaker to miss 250 E season opener with wrist injury
Jo Shimoda joins Seth Hammaker, Austin Forkner with injury
Injury sidelines Austin Forkner for remainder of 2023 SX