O'Ward gets back in his element, inside a race car

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DETROIT – Patricio O’Ward knows only one way to put the disappointment of missing the Indianapolis 500 behind him: by getting back in the No. 31 Carlin Chevrolet and getting down to business at the Chevrolet Detroit Grand Prix presented by Lear.

O’Ward did just that in practice on Friday. Despite issues that limited the 20-year-old rookie to 40 total laps in the three practice sessions, O’Ward was happy just to be back on track again.

“It was good to be back in the car and get going again,” O’Ward said. “I felt more to my ‘nature,’ to be honest. I just want to go out there and get two good finishes to get good points for the team. It’s very important since this weekend is a doubleheader.”

Patricio O'Ward gets in car DetroitThe 2018 Indy Lights presented by Cooper Tires champion, O’Ward was one of three drivers who did not qualify in the top 33 for the Indianapolis 500 presented by Gainbridge – along with Carlin teammate Max Chilton and McLaren’s Fernando Alonso.

Now, O’Ward must make the tough transition to the rough Belle Isle Park temporary street course for the only doubleheader on the 2019 schedule. He does have winning experience on the 2.35-mile, 14-turn circuit, co-driving an IMSA Prototype Challenge entry to victory at Detroit in 2017.

“It’s a track that I ran strong at back in 2017, and I’m looking forward to building on that for this weekend here in my Indy car,” O’Ward said.

In comparing the two vehicles on the Belle Isle circuit, O’Ward found a few similarities in the way each handles.

“The sports car was more stiff overall, so you felt the bumps and movement of the track a lot more than in this Indy car,” he said. “But you can still really feel all of that in the Indy car, too.

“On the straightaways, you can feel the different patches and different parts of grip on each part of the track.”

O’Ward finished 17th on the combined results from Friday’s three practices with a best lap of 1 minute, 16.8539 seconds (110.079 mph) – despite being limited to 12 laps in each of the final two sessions. With no more practices before Race 1 qualifying on Saturday, it could leave him at a disadvantage.

“Unfortunately, we didn’t learn much when we put the red (alternate) tires on in this afternoon’s practice because of a problem with the No. 31 Carlin Chevrolet,” O’Ward said. “We have quite a bit of data from the black (primary) tires that we can use, but we’re just a little bit behind and going in a little bit blindsided to qualifying with the reds.

“We’re going to work with what we have and look at exactly how we can use it to give it our best shot (Saturday) in qualifying. I’m confident in the team and know they’ll work hard tonight to make sure we’re in the best possible spot for qualifying and the race,” he added.

Qualifying for Race 1 begins at 10:45 a.m. ET Saturday and streams live on INDYCAR Pass on NBC Sports Gold, with a taped telecast at noon on NBCSN. The first race of the doubleheader weekend airs at 3 p.m. Saturday on NBC and on the Advance Auto Parts INDYCAR Radio Network.

Race 2 qualifying airs at 10:30 a.m. Sunday on NBCSN, with coverage of the second race beginning at 3 p.m. on NBC and the Advance Auto Parts INDYCAR Radio Network.

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