O'Ward: Ready to take this opportunity 'one by one'

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Pato O’Ward’s primary goal in the latest chapter of his racing journey is to take everything one step at a time.

“I'm just going to take everything one by one,” O’Ward said Wednesday after being confirmed to drive for the Arrow McLaren SP team during the 2020 NTT IndyCar Series. “I think that's the most important thing, just making sure I do my job perfectly, no mistakes. I know the team is going to be giving me their 110 percent every single week and every single day, and I know together we can achieve very good stuff. So I'm very much looking forward to getting started.”

O’Ward, 20, will join Oliver Askew with Arrow McLaren SP for next season. The team made the announcement Wednesday after published reports indicated the two drivers would join the team. The hiring is the most significant step in the Mexican’s short but accomplished career.

“It's very big, not just for me but for Oliver as well,” O’Ward said during an afternoon teleconference. “We're just starting our journey into the professional side of this sport and it's something we have been working towards our whole lives, so I'm very much looking forward to the opportunity. I'm very thankful, and I think there's no better team to do it than with Arrow McLaren SP. I think the guys have just proven that they have what it takes to win races, to challenge for championships.”

O’Ward, a graduate of the Road to Indy presented by Cooper Tires ladder system, won the 2018 Indy Lights championship. He has eight IndyCar races on his resume, including seven in 2019 with Carlin.

The team went with youth in part because of the Lights experience. Askew followed O’Ward’s championship with his own in 2019.

“Both Oliver and Pato are extremely exciting talents,” McLaren sporting director Gil de Ferran said. “They have not only won the Indy Lights championship over the past couple of seasons but these are two drivers I think that have proven their worth throughout their careers, have had a tremendous amount of success throughout their careers from karting onwards. And I think we're proud to have them both onboard and go through this journey together.”

Arrow McLaren SP, formerly known as Arrow Schmidt Peterson Motorsports, has a history of developing young drivers. SPM was the most successful team in Indy Lights history with seven championships, including a 2011 title with reigning IndyCar Series champ Josef Newgarden.

“I think we're going to make a really good team,” O’Ward said. “We're both hungry for all the success. I think at this point both the team and we are growing, we're starting a new chapter in our careers and I think the sky's the limit. So we're going to be pushing, pushing, pushing, and I know that with hard work and really dedicating lots of time and thinking into our future and into our season we should be, we should definitely be up there.”

O’Ward has a diverse motorsports background outside IndyCar, as well. In 2017, he teamed with James French, Kyle Masson and Nicholas Boulle to claim the title in the Prototype Challenge class in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship. Included were victories in the Rolex 24 at Daytona and the 12 Hours of Sebring, making O’Ward the youngest driver, at 17, to win both endurance races.

At 14, O’Ward moved from karts to formula cars. The following year (2014), he moved to Latam Formula 2000. In 2015 and 2016, he competed in the French F4 Championship while also competing with Team Pelfrey in the Indy Pro 2000 championship, the second level of the Road to Indy development system.

In 2018, O’Ward signed with Andretti Autosport to compete in Indy Lights. He won nine of the 17 races, including doubleheader sweeps at Barber Motorsports Park, Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course and Portland International Raceway, en route to the championship. That led to a ride in the 2018 IndyCar Series finale at Sonoma Raceway with Harding Racing.

“It's just so much experience,” O’Ward said. “Obviously, it's not easy walking into a championship that you know absolutely nothing about, but I think everything that I got to do this year and so much change and, honestly, a driver's career doesn't get more challenging than that. So I think more than anything it just helped me grow. It helped me grow as a person, it helped me grow as a driver, and I think it just helps to prepare you for future circumstances and future situations, good or bad, so I think it only helped to what we can build on next year.”

The 2020 IndyCar Series season begins March 15 with the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg at St. Petersburg, Fla.

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