Pato O’Ward has won his first two IndyCar races this season, and has given his Arrow McLaren SP team its first victories since the legendary manufacturer partnered with Schmidt Peterson in 2020.
The talented Mexican driver feels his team is certainly on the right track, giving him a car that allows him to compete at the front of the field most weekends.
But he also acknowledges that the wealth of experience that other teams have in the series helps to give them a distinct advantage come race day.
The 22-year-old currently sits second in the championship, but he was in the top spot just two races ago, and has fallen down to 35 points behind the current leader Alex Palou with only one race remaining.
The difficult showings in the two most recent races likely helped to form O’Ward’s thoughts as he related that he feels the team still has more room to improve.
“I think we’ve made a significant jump in just execution,” said O’Ward, acknowledging his team’s undeniable improvement since last season.
“But we’re not there yet. We’re not where Ganassi is specifically because, I mean, the guys have three cars in the top five in the championship.
“If you ask me whose championship it is to lose, it’s them. We’re here as underdogs. It’s the first time we truly challenged for a championship of this magnitude, with this amount of competitiveness.
“I mean, I don’t think it’s ever been this stacked. We’re up against multi-time champions.
“I think it’s been a fantastic year, I have to say. I’m very proud of what we’ve been able to accomplish. Really proud of how we’ve grown. But we’re not there yet.
“We need to keep pushing and we need to keep improving. I think when we find a little bit extra that we need, it should put us into contention of more wins just more frequently.”
McLaren Racing CEO Zak Brown has already given his vote of confidence to O’Ward and the team overall, stating that he wants to keep the driver behind the wheel of his machinery for the foreseeable future.
McLaren also recently increased its ownership of the IndyCar team 75%, allowing for more of the storied racing team’s resources to be applied stateside.
O’Ward and AMSP still have an outside chance of winning the championship at the season finale in Long Beach, but it would take a perfect race combined with some bad luck for Palou to make it happen.