Pato O’Ward could only wonder what if after finishing second to Marcus Ericsson in the 106th Running of the Indianapolis 500.
The 23-year-old Mexican contended for the top spot throughout the day and emerged as one of the winning contenders after the final pitstop round. O’Ward was a distant 3.28s behind O’Ward when Jimmie Johnson’s crash on Lap 194 red-flagged the 200-lap contest.
That set up a green-white-checkered dash to the bricks.
Ericsson blitzed the field on the restart and weaved on the backstretch to defend the top spot. O’Ward caught a draft of Ericsson heading towards Turn 1 and got alongside, but Ericcson took a defensive line and forced O’Ward to back off.
Sage Karam’s crash with a half-lap remaining sealed the deal for Ericsson and left O’Ward in second place.
O’Ward left the result proud of his team but disappointed with finishing second.
“He was gonna put me in the wall if I would have gone for it,” O’Ward told NBC. “We were alongside each other.
“Man, I’m so proud of the team and proud of myself. We did everything to get it done, and even getting a massive run on him… We had no wicker, less downforce and still not enough speed to get by him, even with a massive run.
“It’s frustrating, it’s bittersweet. I’m so proud but it definitely stings because I feel like the team and I did everything perfectly to get it done, and something that was out of our control was why we struggled in the end.
“All these guys deserve it, and I felt like I drove a race to position us there. It’s just a bummer we didn’t have more.
“We have work to do, and we’ll come back next year, and we’ll come back faster, with a better racecar and go at it again.”
O’Ward felt a bit more frustrated as his Arrow McLaren SP crew ran trim aero setup for the race but came up short at the end.
“I think we were one of three cars that was really trim,” he said. “Like whenever we practiced and we put the wicker on with everybody else, I said, no, this is turtle slow. We need to trim out and we risk it. I will make sure I don’t put the car in the wall.
“But it was hairy. At the end it was tough. The red flag really helped me cool down the rear tire.
“These guys had the better car. They did the better job. They had the better package. We need to work. That’s just the only thing we can kind of look at. Come back next year and give it a run again.”