O’Ward gets 1st IndyCar win at Texas after big 1st-lap crash

Pato O'Ward poses with the trophy as he celebrates his victory at an IndyCar Series auto race at Texas Motor Speedway on Sunday, May 2, 2021, in Fort Worth, Texas.
Pato O'Ward poses with the trophy as he celebrates his victory at an IndyCar Series auto race at Texas Motor Speedway on Sunday, May 2, 2021, in Fort Worth, Texas. (AP)

FORT WORTH, Texas – Pato O’Ward felt calm while he enjoyed the ride in the closing laps in Texas, getting his first IndyCar Series victory at the track closest to the Mexican-born driver’s hometown.

“It’s really cool to do it in a place that’s very close to my heart, is very close to home,” said O'Ward, whose win came four days before his 22nd birthday. “It’s a great place to do it. A lot of my family was here, so it’s really cool to share this moment with them.”

O'Ward passed Josef Newgarden with 23 laps to go Sunday and stayed in front the rest of the way in the No. 5 for Arrow McLaren SP. The organization will now follow through with a promise to let O'Ward test a Formula One car at the end of this year.

The race was the second in as many days at Texas, and was marred by the IndyCar's second first-lap crash of the season.

Six cars were done before they reached the green flag, when Pietro Fittipaldi hit Sebastien Bourdais from behind, knocking the four-time open-wheel champion into Alexander Rossi. The cars of Ed Jones, Dalton Kellett and Conor Daly also were destroyed in the crash that happened as they approached the start-finish line for first time.

Daly, who was starting at the back of the 24-car field, got knocked upside down after he got caught between two other cars. He skidded along the front stretch before the car planted into the rain-saturated infield grass and flipped back onto its wheels.

The aeroscreen on Daly’s car protected him while the car was upside down. The aeroscreen likely saved Ryan Hunter-Reay’s life in the season opener at Barber when it deflected a tire away from his helmet in another first-lap crash.

“I’m good, I’m all right,” Daly said afterward.