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Pato O’Ward Defends to the End to Best Alex Palou at Mid-Ohio

Pato O Ward Honda Indy 200 At Mid Ohio By Chris Owens Ref Image Without Watermark M111420

Pato O’Ward got to drive to the checkered flag in first place for the first time since 2022 by winning Sunday’s (July 7) Honda Indy 200 at Mid-Ohio after a hair-raising duel to the finish with Alex Palou.

The win is O’Ward’s second of 2024 after he was awarded the victory for the season-opening Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg when Josef Newgarden’s win in the event was invalidated. On Sunday, however, O’Ward got to earn his honors on track and had to go toe-to-toe with the NTT IndyCar Series’ most dominant driver to do so.

“That was a hard-fought race,” O’Ward said after exiting his car. “We were really, really strong on the [Firestone] Reds, Palou was really, really strong on the Blacks, so all I needed to do was stay up ahead in the first stint and then come into the pits, put those reds on, try and close the gap and then get him in the pits or on track.

“Great job by the team! It’s been a while. I know we won St. Pete, but this is a proper win. We earned this one this weekend.”

The race looked to be in Palou’s hands until lap 55 when the No. 10 driver made his final stop of the day. Up to that point Palou had been in control after starting from pole and leading all but two of the first 55 laps. The gap between Palou and O’Ward, who ran second for most of the race’s first half, exceeded five seconds at times but O’Ward eventually began to reel the Spaniard in as the laps ticked off. O’Ward’s pace advantage began to materialize when he took on a pair of the faster but less durable Firestone Alternate (Red) tires on lap 28.

Palou, less comfortable on the Reds, maintained his composure even as O’Ward grew larger in the mirrors of the No. 10 Ridgeline Honda. The Spaniard looked much less comfortable on Alternates than he had been on the harder, more durable Firestone Primary (Black) tires.

Palou’s team called him in one lap after O’Ward who had pitted on lap 54. The pit stop for the No. 10 team wasn’t egregious, but a fumble by the driver when exiting the pit box proved enough to knock Palou out of the lead. O’Ward had been floating around one second behind Palou before the pit cycle and that was all Palou needed to cost himself in the pits to drop down to second place on the track.

Still, the defending champion wasn’t out for the count and was able to claw back to O’Ward, who was held up behind Kyffin Simpson and Agustin Canapino who were both on the…

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