With a condensed schedule and a circuit that puts passing at a premium, qualifying toward the front is of the upmost importance this weekend at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course. A tough qualifying session put the entire Arrow McLaren SP team on the back foot for Race One and the team settled for Pato O’Ward finishing 11th and Oliver Askew finishing 19th.
The team came into the first and only practice session of the weekend optimistic, coming off a pair of podium finishes two weeks ago in St. Louis. However, tricky track conditions made it difficult to get up to speed and when O’Ward tried to find more speed in the No. 5 Arrow McLaren SP Chevrolet, he ended up losing control and making contact with the tire barrier. He couldn’t continue the session and finished 22nd. Askew kept it clean and was able to finish 19th.
The focus shifted quickly to qualifying, with each driver having just 15 minutes to put together their best lap. After a heroic effort to rebuild the No. 5 car, O’Ward went out in Group 1 and was able to gain a few more positions, qualifying in 15th. Askew, participating in Group 2, stayed level with his teammate and qualified 16th.
The green flag would wave less than three hours later and O’Ward was able to make a strong start, taking three positions and getting to 12th in the first few laps. Everything was setting up well for him to continue gaining ground, when a clutch issue on the first pit stop cost him valuable time. The 21-year-old driver didn’t let that deter him, having a strong rest of his race and finishing in 11th.
Askew wasn’t able to follow O’Ward on the start and was forced toward the back of the field. Struggling to pass at the tricky Mid-Ohio circuit, he finished 19th despite a solid effort from the rookie.
Both drivers will get another chance today, as Race Two goes green from Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course at 1:00 p.m. ET on NBCSN.
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Pato O’Ward, No. 5 Arrow McLaren SP Chevrolet
Qualified: 15th, 1:07.0354
“Yeah, we had a really messy day today. Not starting toward the front doesn’t make your life any easier. We had some clutch issues in the pits which caused us to stall. That made it really difficult for us to get out of the box. We made up as much time as we could on track. We were very fast and I think the No. 5 Arrow McLaren SP Chevrolet was one of the best cars out there. We just didn’t quite perfect the little things that get you to the front today. We will work on that for tomorrow and we should have a good race.”
Oliver Askew, No. 7 Arrow McLaren SP Chevrolet
Qualified: 16th, 1:07.6211
“It was a tough day for the entire team. You’re always going into the race on your back foot when you don’t qualify toward the front. The No. 7 Arrow McLaren SP Chevrolet felt strong during the race but it’s always tough to pass at Mid-Ohio and we just couldn’t make up ground. The entire team will put in the work tonight to figure out how we can be better and faster tomorrow. Looking forward to getting another shot at it.”
Taylor Kiel, Managing Director, Arrow McLaren SP
“I think tomorrow is going to be a completely different challenge for Arrow McLaren SP. We get another chance to qualify, which is really important. I think that’s where the results in today’s race started. When you qualify in the back here, it’s really tough to pass in the race. We will look to improve on the qualifying, first and foremost. The team raced okay today but we had a stall in pit lane for the No. 5 Arrow McLaren SP Chevrolet that cost us about 15 seconds. If you factor all that in, we could have had a really good day if everything went our way but sometimes that’s how it works and we will try to be better tomorrow. We will work on it overnight and hopefully get better results for both Pato and Oliver tomorrow.”
Gil de Ferran, Sporting Director, McLaren Racing
“Pato had plenty of pace during the race but it was unfortunate that he got delayed on the first stop, which maybe cost us a few positions. I think overall, he drove pretty well and it was a good race for the No. 5 Arrow McLaren SP team. Oliver didn’t quite look like he had the pace throughout the day but we will work on it overnight and see if we can finish further forward tomorrow.”