Pato O’Ward wins Race 2 of Detroit Grand Prix for second of the season, takes points lead


Pato O’Ward won his second IndyCar race of 2021 in the Chevrolet Detroit Grand Prix and ended a streak of unique winners that started the season at seven. O’Ward led only three laps en route to the second victory of his career (having won his first May 2 at Texas Motor Speedway).

“I had such a great car all weekend,” O’Ward, who started 16th of 25 drivers, told NBC Sports’ Marty Snider. “Today was my fault (in qualifying) that we made it a little extra hard on ourselves starting from the back. But I knew I had a great car under me.”

Along with a third-place finish in Saturday’s race, the victory allowed O’Ward to assume the championship points lead by one marker over Alex Palou. The win came a day after his Arrow McLaren SP grappled with the aftermath of a wicked crash for Felix Rosenqvist, who missed Sunday’s race after being hospitalized as a precaution.

“I texted Felix this morning” O’Ward said. “The important thing is that he’s okay, but I told him I’m going to win it for you. So this is for him.”

The box score shows Josef Newgarden finished 6.8 seconds behind in second, but the race was much closer than that. Newgarden led 67 of the 70 laps before the decision to end the race on softer red Firestones, as well as two ill-timed caution flags, proved his undoing.

O’Ward opted to end the race on the more durable black compound.

Newgarden saved most of his push-to-pass boost for the final laps, hoping that would allow him to maintain his advantage over the competition, but when he got loose exiting a turn with three laps remaining, it opened the door for O’Ward to pounce.

“Sad; just pretty sad,” Newgarden told NBC’s Kevin Lee when asked about the closing laps. “It’s hard not to be disappointed. We had the car to beat. Cautions when we didn’t need them. Wrong tires when we didn’t need them. It was a fun strategy. I think we were doing well. It’s just the caution that killed us. My rear wheels are shot, and we didn’t need that.”

This is Newgarden’s third runner-up finish of the season. He was second at St. Petersburg in Round 2 and also in the second Texas Motor Speedway race in the other doubleheader earlier this year.

Newgarden came close to delivering the first victory for Team Penske this season. With 20 laps remaining, soon after what would have been the final green-flag stop for both drivers, Colton Herta closed to within a half-second and bided his time on better tires. They had a lead of more than 10 seconds over Alex Palou, so there was no sense of urgency.

Until Jimmie Johnson, running 20th at the time as the final driver on the lead lap, spun in Turn 1 and stalled his car. That caution erased the leaders’ advantage on the field and put another cycle on Newgarden’s red tires.

Another caution for a spin for Romain Grosjean set up a sprint to the finish. Even then, it appeared Newgarden might salvage the win. Under the caution, he was informed by race strategist Tim Cindric that he had enough push-to-pass to use it every lap until the checkers. But Newgarden continued to be stingy with the button.

He was able to hold up Herta for several laps and allowed O’Ward and Palou to join the fray. The three young guns battled hard to be the driver in the best position to pounce on Newgarden before O’Ward gained the advantage. It didn’t take long for him to make the pass on Newgarden, and he immediately scooted out to an impressive lead.

The last time Penske went this long without a win to start the season was in 2013 when Helio Castroneves scored the team’s first win in the eighth race.

(Chris Jones/IndyCar)

After O’Ward passed Newgarden, the battle shifted to second. Newgarden kept Herta and Palou behind him as they battled for the final podium position.

Palou grabbed third, and with that pass, managed to stay within one point of the new championship leader O’Ward.

“It’s only one point,” Palou said. “I lost 37 points in two races, so I can recover 37 more points in two races.”

After making a couple of bold pass attempts that marbled his tires, Herta finished fourth.

“It’s pretty disappointing,” Herta told NBC’s Kevin Lee. “We had a fast car, I just didn’t get it done there are the end unfortunately.”

The last time the series had seven winners in the first seven races was in 2017. Graham Rahal snapped the streak by winning both races of the Belle Isle doubleheader. This weekend, he swept the fifth-place position.

Marcus Ericsson scored his first IndyCar win on Saturday in a three-lap dash to the finish. He was ninth in Race 2.

Finishing 10th, Santino Ferrucci had one of the more adventurous races of the day. He crashed heavily in qualification, aggravating a leg fracture sustained in the Indy 500, and had to climb into Takuma Sato’s backup car. With a few quick adjustments for the car that was originally setup as a speedway car, he climbed steadily the through the field to sweep the top 10.

Grosjean’s Detroit Grand Prix ended eerily similar to his Formula 1 career. His spin set up the dash to the finish when he was forced out of his car with the brakes on fire. It was far less dramatic than the fiery crash in his last F1 race at Bahrain last year.

Ford unveils a new Mustang for 2024 Le Mans in motorsports ‘lifestyle brand’ retooling

Ford Mustang Le Mans
Ford Performance

LE MANS, France — Ford has planned a return to the 24 Hours of Le Mans with its iconic Mustang muscle car next year under a massive rebranding of Ford Performance aimed at bringing the automotive manufacturer “into the racing business.”

The Friday unveil of the new Mustang Dark Horse-based race car follows Ford’s announcement in February (and a ballyhooed test at Sebring in March) that it will return to Formula One in 2026 in partnership with reigning world champion Red Bull.

The Mustang will enter the GT3 category next year with at least two cars in both IMSA and the World Endurance Championship, and is hopeful to earn an invitation to next year’s 24 Hours of Le Mans. The IMSA entries will be a factory Ford Performance program run by Multimatic, and a customer program in WEC with Proton Competition.

Ford CEO Jim Farley, also an amateur sports car racer, told The Associated Press the Mustang will be available to compete in various GT3 series across the globe to customer teams. But more important, Farley said, is the overall rebranding of Ford Performance – done by renowned motorsports designer Troy Lee – that is aimed at making Ford a lifestyle brand with a sporting mindset.

“It’s kind of like the company finding its own, and rediscovering its icons, and doubling down on them,” Farley told the AP. “And then this motorsports activity is getting serious about connecting enthusiast customers with those rediscovered icons. It’s a big switch for the company – this is really about building strong, iconic vehicles with enthusiasts at the center of our marketing.”

Ford last competed in sports car racing in 2019 as part of a three-year program with Chip Ganassi Racing. The team scored the class win at Le Mans in 2016 in a targeted performance aimed to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Ford snapping Ferrari’s six-year winning streak.

Ford on Friday displayed a Mustang with a Lee-designed livery that showcased the cleaner, simplified look that will soon be featured on all its racing vehicles. The traditional blue oval with Ford Performance in white lettering underneath will now be branded simply FP.

The new mark will be used across car liveries, merchandise and apparel, display assets, parts and accessories and in advertising.

Farley cited Porsche as an automaker that has successfully figured out how to sell cars to consumers and race cars in various series around the world while creating a culture of brand enthusiasts. He believes Ford’s new direction will help the company sell street cars, race cars, boost interest in driving schools, and create a merchandise line that convinces consumers that a stalwart of American automakers is a hip, cool brand.

“We’re going to build a global motorsports business off road and on road,” Farley told the AP, adding that the design of the Mustang is “unapologetically American.”

He lauded the work of Lee, who is considered the top helmet designer among race car drivers.

“We’re in the first inning of a nine inning game, and going to Le Mans is really important,” Farley said. “But for customer cars, getting the graphics right, designing race cars that win at all different levels, and then designing a racing brand for Ford Performance that gets rebranded and elevated is super important.”

He said he’s kept a close eye on how Porsche and Aston Martin have built their motorsports businesses and said Ford will be better.

“We’re going in the exact same direction. We just want to be better than them, that’s all,” Farley said. “Second is the first loser.”

Farley, an avid amateur racer himself, did not travel to Le Mans for the announcement. The race that begins Saturday features an entry from NASCAR, and Ford is the reigning Cup Series champion with Joey Logano and Team Penske.

The NASCAR “Garage 56” entry is a collaboration between Hendrick Motorsports, Chevrolet and Goodyear, and is being widely celebrated throughout the industry. Farley did feel left out of the party in France – a sentiment NASCAR tried to avoid by inviting many of its partners to attend the race so that it wouldn’t seem like a Chevrolet-only celebration.

“They’re going right and I’m going left – that NASCAR thing is a one-year deal, right? It’s Garage 56 and they can have their NASCAR party, but that’s a one-year party,” Farley said. “We won Le Mans outright four times, we won in the GT class, and we’re coming back with Mustang and it’s not a one-year deal.

“So they can get all excited about Garage 56. I almost see that as a marketing exercise for NASCAR, but for me, that’s a science project,” Farley continued. “I don’t live in a world of science projects. I live in the world of building a vital company that everyone is excited about. To do that, we’re not going to do a Garage 56 – I’ve got to beat Porsche and Aston Martin and Ferrari year after year after year.”

Ford’s announcement comes on the heels of General Motors changing its GT3 strategy next season and ending its factory Corvette program. GM, which unlike Ford competes in the IMSA Grand Touring Prototype division (with its Cadillac brand), will shift fully to a customer model for Corvettes in 2024 (with some factory support in the IMSA GTD Pro category).