INDIANAPOLIS — Pato O’Ward, one of the biggest names in the pool of potential free agents in the NTT IndyCar Series, is off the market having re-signed an extension with Arrow McLaren SP.
But the No. 5 Dallara-Chevrolet driver said he refocused starting with a fifth in the Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach and then won the May 8 race at Barber Motorsports Park.
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O’Ward won twice last season at Texas Motor Speedway and Detroit, finishing finished third in the championship standings.
The Monterrey, Mexico, native ranked fourth in the points during his 2020 debut with McLaren. His nine career podiums all have come with the team, and he was the 2020 Indy 500 rookie of the year with a sixth place. He also won the 2018 Indy Lights championship and has two class wins in the Rolex 24 at Daytona.
In March, O’Ward, who will be starting seventh in Sunday’s Indy 500 (11 a.m. ET, NBC), went public with news that he was testing the IndyCar free agent market. The revelation came just days after McLaren announced a Formula One testing contract with Colton Herta. O’Ward, who shares the same F1 aspirations as his Rolex 24-winning teammate, initially seemed miffed by the news.
“I am incredibly happy to have locked in my future with Arrow McLaren SP,” O’Ward said in a Friday release. “This team has truly felt like home for me over the past three years, and I can’t wait to build on our success as we compete for wins and championships. I want to thank the whole team for this opportunity. This is exactly where I want to be.”
"One of my biggest goals in life is to win that race."@PatricioOWard starts 7th in Sunday's #Indy500 knowing someone's life is going to change that day. He hope it's his with a win for @ArrowMcLarenSP. pic.twitter.com/flUeqztWBl
— INDYCAR on NBC (@IndyCaronNBC) May 25, 2022
McLaren owner Zak Brown had said earlier this year that O’Ward was under contract through 2024 but had the right to solicit offers from other teams in a form of restricted free agency.
“Pato is an important part of McLaren’s future in IndyCar and we are happy that he will be a key part of Arrow McLaren SP for years to come,” Brown said in a release. “He is an incredibly talented driver who has already shown what he is capable of in IndyCar, and I look forward to watching him take the next step in his promising career.”
Brown confirmed to the Associated Press that the extension includes a well-earned pay raise for O’Ward, a McLaren for his personal use and potential opportunities with McLaren’s Formula One team.
“The entire team is excited that Pato is on board for the long haul,” Arrow McLaren SP president Taylor Kiel said in a release. “He is an important part of our plan here at Arrow McLaren SP, his energy and work ethic is infectious. Having watched him develop since he joined the team, I look forward to building on these foundations to increase our performance and achieve our common goals in the years to come.”
Arrow McLaren still has two open seats for next year. Felix Rosenqvist also is in a contract year, and the team will add a third full-time entry in 2023.
The team said its driver lineup for next season will be revealed “in due course.”