Momentum Builds in Final Races of Breakthrough Season for Arrow McLaren SP
During a year of uncertainty and constant change, Arrow McLaren SP has had a breakthrough season in the NTT IndyCar Series. With 11 races down and only three remaining, we check in with Managing Director, Taylor Kiel to gather his thoughts on what 2020 has looked like inside the growing team.
With the season kicking off in June and shortened on-track weekends due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the odds were stacked against the youngest and most inexperienced driver lineup in IndyCar.
“To start the year off at a Texas Motor Speedway with only one practice session and two drivers who had never raced there before, we just wanted to get through the event with no incidents,” noted Taylor Kiel, who, despite his young age of 33, has been with the team for 12 years. “It was great to get through without any issues and a fantastic top-10 finish for Oliver Askew in his series debut. He followed that up with qualifying inside the Fast Six for the following event at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course, which was a great confidence boost for him and the team.”
While the team showed promise at the first two races, the real breakthrough came during the Road America doubleheader in July. During the second race at the Wisconsin track, Pato O’Ward grabbed his first career pole and went on to lead 43 of 55 laps for Arrow McLaren SP, ultimately settling for second place.
The theme of leading laps and contending for race wins has continued ever since. In fact, Arrow McLaren SP’s track record in 2020 has already grown exponentially with 218 laps led this season, compared to 26 total laps led in 2019.
“The second race at Road America with Pato dominating most of the race, really put us on the map,” noted Kiel, who is also strategist for O’Ward in the No. 5 Arrow McLaren SP Chevrolet. “We didn’t close the deal, but it was a great boost. Then the weekend at Iowa Speedway was fantastic for both drivers and getting Oliver’s first IndyCar podium. And Pato’s weekend at WWT Raceway with a double-podium finish was great. Overall, there’s a lot to look back on and rate very highly.”
Oliver Askew, 23, and Pato O’Ward, 21, have had their work cut out, overcoming their lack of experience with strong work ethic and the ability to adapt to the changing circumstances.
“They’re both tireless workers in and out of the car,” said Kiel. “Their physical preparation is key, and both of them take it very seriously. I talk to both of them almost every day and it’s difficult to catch them between workouts and the commercial and competition-related items they do for us. They’re already working with their engineers at a very high level, but they’re still working to close the feedback loop and understanding what the engineers need to make the cars better. These are all things we expected with having such young drivers, but they’re learning very quickly and frankly, very impressively given how condensed these schedules are with limited practice time to hone their craft.”
With four podiums and 12 top 10 finishes throughout the first 11 races of the season, Kiel is hopeful for a strong end to the year with only three races remaining.
“We go into every weekend wanting to win, obviously, and we’ve been in the hunt every weekend,” enthused Kiel. “We’d really like to get the Rookie of the Year Championship with Oliver, which is still within reach if we continue to execute at a high level. With Pato, we’re third in the overall championship and we still have a shot at the title, so we’re obviously doing everything we can to capitalize on that opportunity. Ultimately, this year was about learning and laying a good foundation for long-term success with Arrow Electronics, McLaren, Chevrolet and all the partners that continue to grow with us. I’d say we’re well on our way to achieving those goals, but selfishly speaking, we always want more. We have a great shot to close out this year on a great note, so that’s what we’re going to do.”
Arrow McLaren SP is headed back to the road course at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway for its final doubleheader weekend of the season on October 2-3, hoping to build upon the momentum already established through what has been a tremendous season for the team and its driver lineup.