LONG BEACH, Calif.
Pato O’Ward has been eliminated from the IndyCar championship just 18 laps into Sunday’s season finale because of a broken drive shaft.
O’Ward entered the Grand Prix of Long Beach trailing leader Alex Palou by 35 points and in need of a perfect day to become the first Mexican champion in IndyCar history.
“Gearbox is gone,” O’Ward radioed his Arrow McLaren SP team as he slowed his car on the temporary street course.
Palou entered the race needing only an 11th-place finish Sunday to win his first IndyCar title. The 24-year-old Spaniard has battled O’Ward, a 22-year-old, all season as the youngsters have been the faces of a new youth movement.
But this finale weekend has been frustrating for O’Ward, who vowed to pull all the stops to disrupt the championship race. He was unhappy with his car in practice Friday and then furious Saturday when an IndyCar ruling prevented him from advancing to the final round of qualifying.
That put O’Ward in eighth at the start of the race — in traffic that led to a first-lap disaster. He was spun from behind by Ed Jones just minutes into the race while running eighth.
“I got hit!” O’Ward yelled on his radio as Arrow McLaren SP chief Zak Brown threw his arms up in disgust on the team timing stand. Some six hours earlier, Lando Norris lost a chance at his first Formula One victory when the McLaren driver slid off a wet course in Russia as the late leader.
Barely a minute into the organization’s bid to win the IndyCar title, O’Ward had been spun out of position and dropped to 25th in the field — second to last.
“Definitely not a great day, both over here and in Russia, with such high hopes,” Brown said as O’Ward walked off still wearing his helmet. “Pretty disappointing that Pato got taken out by a bit of an amateur move before the race even got started.”