Pato O’Ward Says IndyCar Needs to Change, ‘Rattle People’s Floor’

Jackson Wheeler
11 Min Read


  • IndyCar driver Pato O’Ward calls on officials to find that ‘something missing’ when it comes to expanding the sport’s reach and relevance.
  • He says IndyCar needs to grow exponentially, not in small increments.
  • ‘I know it can be so much more successful than what it is now,’ the 24-year-old, seventh-year driver says.

Change, Pato O’Ward said, “will usually kind of rattle people’s floor.

“Like, it’ll kind of move things around. Some people will like it; some people won’t like it. But when you don’t evolve and when you don’t change, you sure as hell will not grow. The only way to doing that is to change things up.”

The driver of the No. 5 Arrow McLaren Chevrolet, who will begin his seventh year in the NTT IndyCar Series March 10 with the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg, said change is what the sport needs.

“Having a good product, yes, that is important,” O’Ward said. But ultimately . . . you want people to be a part of something that’s just not race cars going around.”

The product, he said during the recent IndyCar Content Days event at Indianapolis, isn’t the issue.

pato o ward indycar nashville

Penske Entertainment/Chris Owens

Racing on the streets of Nashville is great, but if IndyCar wants to get bigger, it needs to think bigger, says driver Pato O’Ward.

“The racing is unbelievable. The racing is so good,” he said, “but there is something missing that we have yet quite to crack. And I think there’s a lot of examples in motorsports that have shown growth. Every series is different, but you see how other series grow. See what is working for them, what is causing that to happen.”

Just before he made his fourth appearance at the Rolex 24 at Daytona and powered the Mission Foods United Autosports entry to a sixth-place finish in the LMP2 class, O’Ward told Autoweek his comments are motivated by passion.

“I care for the series, and I feel like a lot of the things that I say in my observations of what’s going on, it’s all come from a good place, because I care for IndyCar as a series so much that I want to see it succeed. And I know it can be so much more successful than what it is now,” he said.

“We really need to pinpoint what’s part of the formula that maybe right now isn’t the greatest, and we need to attack that. But in order to do that, we got to give it some love,” he said. “And everybody has to be involved, not just leadership. The drivers have to be on top of it. The teams have to be on top of it, and it really has to be a team work in order to make it better and better and better. And that’s what we should be striving for. We shouldn’t be wanting to just stay where we’re at.

“I do everything in my power to expand the reach of the series, to expand the reach of people watching and people coming to IndyCar race and enjoying that. And I think I’ve done my part as much or even more than anybody else in the series. But we can’t seem to really gain attraction to shoot up like we’ve seen maybe with Formula 1 and others,” O’Ward said.

For O’Ward, the idea is for the grow exponentially, not in baby steps.

“I feel like we’re kind of stuck, in a way, and we’re selling ourselves short and just wanting to grow incrementally,” he said. “The mentality should be ‘How can we double, how can we triple, how can we quadruple, how we can go more international?’ It should always be more and more and more. We really have the potential to see massive gains, but just like in a lot of things, you have to fuel it if you want to see some of that double, triple, quadruple.

“Maybe it’s a bad way to say that nothing’s ever enough,” O’Ward said. “But in a way, I think it’s a blessing in disguise, because you continue to push through and you have a massive motivation behind it to keep going in every way. I mean, you got to push through. It’s never a good idea to just stay where you’re at because that’s really going to grow old, and you’re not going to see anything new. So, you want to keep going, and you always want to see what’s the new thing, because the world will always evolve.”

honda indy 300

Robert Laberge//Getty Images

Indy cars raced in Australia from 1991 through 2008.

O’Ward is just 24 years old, and he admitted, “I know there’s a lot more people that have a lot more experience than I do” and “I know I’m just a voice. Some people agree with me. Some people don’t agree with me. I believe at Arrow McLaren as a group, we are on the boat of definitely turbocharging it a bit . . . taking more of an aggressive approach, which has been proven to work. I’ve always been from the mentality [that] everything I do, I always go 100 percent. I never do things halfway. Maybe that’s a bit aggressive to a series. But we have the potential to be ‘two- or three-timesing,’ not growing five or 10 percent a year. We’re selling ourselves short by just wanting to grow incrementally like that.”

O’Ward said, “I try and do my best to help and to bring new audiences and new people to the series, because I feel like once people see and watch it, they’re going to want to stick around. The problem is you need to get it in front of as many eyes as you can.”

The racer from Monterrey, Mexico, who attended high school in San Antonio, has lobbied for IndyCar’s return to his home country, among other foreign venues. The IndyCar schedule included Mexico City’s Autódromo Hermanos Rodriguez in 1980-81 and 2002-2007 and Monterrey’s Fundidora Park from 2001-2006.

O’Ward called such an encore “definitely high on my priority list. I’m not quite sure when it is going to happen. I think it’ll happen someday. But I think there’s other priorities in front of making that the top priority, let’s say. I think one of the biggest things that we all have to focus on is the excuse is always, ‘Well, the partners don’t care about going international.’ Well, why? We need to be able to offer a product that makes international brands want to be a part of it.

“There’s going to be new audiences automatically of going to these markets. But having a race in Europe, having a race in México, Argentina, Uruguay – I think we have big potential to have a concentrated amount of races in Latin America, like Brazil, more races there rather than all around the world,” he said. “We already have drivers from those markets, but we don’t have races there. Just having a driver in a series from a specific country doesn’t quite necessarily bring you the potential that it could if you had a race.”

pato o'ward indycar

Penske Entertainment/Joe Skibinski

Pato O’Ward says it’s time for IndyCar to load up the trucks and shoot for the moon with future race schedules.

He isn’t holding his breath, although the series throughout the years also has raced in Argentina, Australia, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, England, Germany, Italy, Japan, and The Netherlands.

“I don’t know where the series is in terms of wanting to do international or not. Last I heard, they don’t like that,” O’Ward said. “But I don’t see why. I really think — I’m not saying go absolutely everywhere like Formula 1 does. No. I think we need to stick to our roots and embrace what IndyCar is and what IndyCar has been and really extract that.

“I don’t know. That’s just my take,” he said. “But I think there’s definitely a lot of market to explore in those areas, and you will definitely have the most passionate fans around the world.”

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Headshot of Susan Wade

Susan Wade has lived in the Seattle area for 40 years, but motorsports is in the Indianapolis native’s DNA. She has emerged as one of the leading drag-racing writers with nearly 30 seasons at the racetrack, focusing on the human-interest angle.  She was the first non-NASCAR recipient of the prestigious Russ Catlin Award and has covered the sport for the Chicago Tribune, Newark Star-Ledger, and Seattle Times. She has contributed to Autoweek as a freelance writer since 2016.

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Jackson Wheeler is a skilled editor at Speedofdaily.com, specializing in automotive content. With a background in Journalism and Automotive Engineering, he combines his passion for cars with his writing expertise to deliver captivating articles. Jackson's deep knowledge of automotive technology and his racing experience make him a valuable asset to the team, providing readers with informative and engaging content.
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