LONG BEACH, Calif – How good has Pato O’Ward been? I think he’s made people forget he’s just a teenager. O’Ward is just 19 years old and has driven in only three NTT IndyCar Series races. He’s never raced on the streets of Long Beach prior to this weekend. But, no one is surprise anymore that when you look at who could win Sunday’s Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach (4 p.m. ET/NBCSN/IndyCar Radio Network) O’Ward’s name keeps coming up.
O’Ward was fifth quickest on the speed charts in his No. 31 Chevrolet on Friday. On Saturday morning, he was ninth overall. How impressive is that? He qualified ninth for Sunday’s race as well as the only Chevy driver not of Team Penske to be in the top 15.
As I said above, he’s never raced on this 1.968-mile street course before. Also, 13 of the top 17 speeds this weekend in practice belong to Honda drivers. The only Chevy drivers in the top 17 speeds are the three Team Penske’s and O’Ward.
Did I mention he’s only making his fourth career start?
He’s been quicker in both days than Penske’s Will Power (15th, 10th). He’s on par with Simon Pagenaud (8th, 5th). Both are series champions. They’re seasoned veterans driving for arguably the top team in the sport. O’Ward is driving for a second year team that is making just their second ever trip to this track.
That’s how talented this kid is. He’s going to be in the hunt on Sunday. People now expect that. They’re forgetting he’s not even 20 yet and is a novice in this series. That’s how good he is and how great he’s going to be.