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’s No. 5 Dallara-Chevrolet inherited the lead when defending race winner and series champion Alex Palou pitted on Lap 64, and the Mexican star led the final 27 laps for his third career victory and first in nearly a year.

“(Team president) Taylor (Kiel) told me we were fighting for the win when we almost got (VeeKay) in the pit stops, so I said, ‘No, this is the chance, man,’ ” O’Ward told NBC Sports’ Marty Snider. “It was so tough to follow just because it’s such a fast and flowing circuit, so I knew if I would have the opportunity it would have been right then and there.

“I got on my (push to pass) button, got around him into 5, and I knew if we would get into clean air, we could kind of control the thing.

“Once we did that, it was cruise to victory lane.”

RESULTS: Click here for where everyone finished at Barber

LAP LEADER CHART: Who was at the front Sunday

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

“We had a good day overall, super happy with a P2,” Palou told NBC Sports’ Dillon Welch. “I did a mistake on a restart, so I think that was all the difference. (O’Ward) was really fast today. Super happy with the No. 10 American Legion Honda car was super fast all weekend and another podium. We’ll try (to win) the next one.”

O’Ward made it four consecutive victories to start the season for Chevrolet (and the first by a non-Team Penske driver after Scott McLaughlin won the season opener, and Josef Newgarden the past two).

It was the first IndyCar win since June 13, 2021 in Detroit for O’Ward. The McLaren championship hopeful 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, who turns 23 this Friday, 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 reworked 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.

“It sucks to be at war within your own team, so I’m glad there’s been very positive talks for the future,” O’Ward told Snider after Sunday’s win. “And man I wanted to do it for these guys, Arrow McLaren SP. Team Chevy, they’ve swept this year so far, so I think it’s great for them.

“Yeah man, I was tired of being 10th, 11th and fifth so I said let’s get a win under our belts so we can claw our way back into this championship fight.”

VeeKay led a race-high 57 of 90 laps for the third podium finish of his career.

“We were having a great race and coming into pit lane, and I really got held up a little bit with Jimmie (Johnson), so Pato closed the gap a lot,” VeeKay told NBC Sports’ Kevin Lee. “I was so much looking in my mirrors, I forgot to use the push to pass because I was too much looking in my mirrors. Yeah, I was just a little bit too conservative there. So pretty bummed missing out on that win. We had a great car, great race.”

McLaughlin finished sixth, followed by Romain Grosjean, Graham Rahal, Alexander Rossi and Colton Herta.

Rahal was upset with Grosjean after they made contact multiple times in the closing laps before Grosjean gained the position on the last lap as Rahal ran low on fuel.

“I just think it’s clear when you watch the in-car camera, and look at the angle of his head,” Rahal told NBC Sports’ Lee when asked about the contact. “When I can see in the mirror his head is directed this way, and the track is the (other) way, it’s pretty self-explanatory.

“I gave him room. I knew Romain was going to dive-bomb me because I already had been warned that’s what he was doing. But look where he scraped me, why are you turning into me? Your right front is at my left rear. There’s no excuse for that here. Look, he just releases the car to hit me. And here again. Look at how much room he has.

“I’m just frustrated because this isn’t the first time. At St. Pete, he hit everyone he could hit. We come here, he hit Rossi, hit Herta, hit me. At some point, we have to clean up our act.”

Asked if he expected IndyCar officials to take action, Rahal said, “I’ll let you guys decide. You guys know. As another driver in the series told me, you can’t teach an old dog new tricks, and he’s had that reputation over his whole career in Europe, and we’re learning his reputation quickly here.

“If race control doesn’t want to do anything, they’re not going to do anything. But when we go and punt him, they better not do anything to me. Which in the past, I’ve been penalized for a lot less than that.”

Grosjean said he didn’t intentionally hit Rahal.

“We touched a couple of times, but it was good racing,” Grosjean told NBC Sports’ Snider. “It was tough out there. Barber is a very good track but very tough to pass, especially when you’re in a train.

“If the guy in front of you doesn’t have anyone in front of them, you can try to defend a different line, but they’re all in line, so it was quite tricky. It’s good racing. It’s IndyCar. Wheel to wheel action. We didn’t have the right strategy; the three-stop didn’t work, and we were better than others on tires. On to the next one.”

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.

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.

Herta raced his way back into contention for a top five but fell to 10th after a late spin.

Jett Lawrence wins Hangtown Pro Motocross, remains perfect in 450s

Lawrence Hangtown Motocross
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Jett Lawrence remains perfect in the Pro Motocross series after recording another perfect round at Hangtown in Rancho Cordova, California. In his second start on a 450, Lawrence won his second National with his fourth consecutive moto win. It is getting increasingly difficult to find the right superlatives to describe the exploits on the reigning 250 West Supercross champion.

“The track was so brutal out there,” Lawrence told NBC Sports Jason Thomas. “The bike handles amazing even when it’s not too friendly. You had to be really patient; you couldn’t take too much. I didn’t eat enough before that second moto. I kind of lost energy halfway through, but luckily I could use technique and balance and just keep that flow going.”

Lawrence leaves Hangtown with an 18-point advantage over Ferrandis in the 450 Motocross standings, but perhaps more importantly, he climbed to 19th in the SuperMotocross standings and should he stay there, he has an automatic invitation to the Main events in the SMX Championship.

“On this track, you just have to manage,” Lawrence continued. “If you try to take too much and not respect the track, it will bite you very quickly. It was humbling on the first few laps. I got kicked on the cutout at the start of the third section, the tabletop going to the left. I had to get my focus because the boys were coming.”

Still in his first few races since returning from a concussion suffered at Houston in the Supercross series, Dylan Ferrandis finished second with results of third in Moto 1 and second in Moto 2. While Ferrandis was happy with the result, he remains hopeful that he will contend for victory shortly.

“The first moto was very hard for my physically, Ferrandis said. “I got arm pump and when you get arm pump your body gets tired. But I’m very happy because we made a big change for the second moto. We tried stuff every session today and in the last moto the bike was much better, but unfortunately I wasn’t sure what I could do with this bike because the track was very hard and difficult to pass.”

RESULTS: How they finished in the 450 Overall at Hangtown

With the rash of injuries at the end of the Supercross season, the podium was filled with heartwarming stories. Cooper Webb returned to action last week in Pala and failed to make the podium. He is steadily improving with a third-place finish in Hangtown. after finishing with a 4-2.

“It’s incredible what seven days can do,” Webb said. “Last week I felt like I was going to get lapped in the second moto. This week, I could see the leader. It was nice. I fought hard, learned how to suffer again there and that felt nice.

Moto 2 wasn’t pretty for Lawrence. On several occasions in the opening laps, he nearly high sided as he rode the front wheel through the ruts. The reward was worth the risk. By the halfway point, Lawrence had 4.5-second lead over Webb, who was embroiled in a tight three-rider battle for second with his teammate Aaron Plessinger pressuring him and Ferrandis ready to take advantage if those made contact.

It took 20 minutes for Plessinger to get around Webb and once he did, he trailed Lawrence by four seconds. But then, with three minutes remaining, Plessinger crashed and had difficulty restarting the bike, handing second back to Webb who has seven seconds behind Lawrence. Plessinger fell to fourth with results of third and sixth.

Adam Cianciarulo rounded out the top five with a 5-4.

Last week Hunter Lawrence won the overall with a 3-1. He repeated that feat in Hangtown in an exact replica of his Fox Raceway results last week. In Moto 1, Lawrence got off to a slow start and lost 10 seconds in the opening laps. Forced to overcome a sixth-place position in the race at the end of Lap 1, he once again caught the riders ahead of him when the field hit heavy traffic. For the second week, scored another 3-1 for the Hangtown National win.

“The start was crucial’ I knew I had to go,” Lawrence told NBC Sports’ Jason Thomas. “They laid a lot of water down, so I didn’t want to be behind any longer than [I was]. First hot one of the year, was a bit of a wakeup call, so I’m happy to get out of here safe and healthy.”

Lawrence’s third-place finish in Moto 1 featured a fierce battle for final spot on the podium when he caught Spain’s Guillem Farres and France’s Tom Vialle. With Lawrence hailing from Australia, the international nature of the sport was highlighted.

Lawrence left Hangtown with a 10-point advantage over Haiden Deegan in the Pro Motocross championship battle.

Click here for 250 overall results

Justin Cooper finished second in both motos to finish second overall. Hangtown represented a huge improvement from Fox Raceway where he finished fifth overall with a 5-4 finish in the two motos. Cooper pressured Haiden Deegan in the second half of Moto 1 and he earned the holeshot in the second moto and stayed within three seconds of Lawrence in that race.

“He was following me a little bit, checking out my lines, seeing where he was better,” Cooper said. “It’s disappointing to give up the lead like that but it was way better than last weekend. I will definitely take two seconds. I want to be on the top of the step. I feel like I get close to the top step but I never get it done. That’s building up the frustration – the fire. I really want to get one of these wins, so it’s time to start digging.”

Haiden Deegan earned the first holeshot of his career in Moto 1 and rode away from the field, building a four-second lead in the opening laps. Cooper trimmed the lead at the halfway point and for a while it leveled off at two seconds. Then Cooper made another charge with three to go and closed to within a second. Deegan was biding his time, however.

“I was saving a little. I knew at the end Justin was going to try and put a charge on. I let him get up close and then sent it super hard at the end to break him a little at the end.”

Deegan’s first moto win comes in only his fourth National and he remains perfect in regard to podiums this year.

“This was a dream since I was a little kid, to win,” Deegan said. “And in my fourth race, it’s gnarly. I was just sending it. I was getting a little tired at the end becasue I left my mouth open the whole time. It’s unreal; I’m so hyped. I wanted to win bad and I proved it to you guys.”

Chaos erupted in turn 1 in Moto 2 Jeremy Martin went and another rider ran over his arm. Michael Mosiman crashed further down the track on that same lap. Both riders were helped off course by the Alpinestars Medical team.

2023 Motocross Race Recaps

Fox Raceway: Jett Lawrence wins in first 450 start

2023 Supercross Race Recaps

Salt Lake City: Chase Sexton ends the season with win
Denver: Chase Sexton wins, takes points’ lead with Eli Tomac injury
Nashville: Chase Sexton keeps hope alive; Cooper Webb out
New Jersey: Justin Barcia wins muddy race; first in two years
Atlanta: Chase Sexton is back in the championship picture
Glendale: Eli Tomac wins 51st, breaks tie with James Stewart
Seattle: Eli Tomac wins and ties Webb for first
Detroit: Chase Sexton inherits win after Aaron Plessinger falls
Indianapolis: Ken Roczen gets first win in more than a year
Daytona: Eli Tomac extends Daytona record with seventh win
Arlington: Cooper Webb wins for second time, closes to two of Tomac
Oakland: Eli Tomac ties Ricky Carmichael with 48 wins
Tampa: Cooper Webb gets first 2023 win
Houston: Eli Tomac bounces back from A2 crash to win third race of 2023
Anaheim 2: Triple Crown produces new winners Chase Sexton, Levi Kitchen
San Diego: Eli Tomac, Jett Lawrence double down
Anaheim 1: Eli Tomac wins opener for the first time

More SuperMotocross coverage

Chase Sexton is out for Hangtown
Enzo Lopes re-signs with Club MX for 2024
Record Supercross attendance reported in 2023
SuperMotocross Power Rankings after Pala
Results and points after Pala
Jett Lawrence wins Pala in his first MX start
450 Champion Chase Sexton takes back what he gave away
250 West Supercross champion Jett Lawrence ends dream career
250 East Supercross champion Hunter Lawrence overcomes doubt and injury