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Pato O’Ward charges to win, dedicates it to teammate

Pato O'Ward celebrates by jumping into James Scott Memorial Fountain after winning the second race of the IndyCar Detroit Grand Prix auto racing doubleheader on Belle Isle in Detroit Sunday, June 13, 2021. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)

By JENNA FRYER

AP Auto Racing Writer

DETROIT — Pato O’Ward became IndyCar’s first repeat winner of the season by charging through the field Sunday on a final restart to steal the victory away from Josef Newgarden at the Raceway at Belle Isle Park.

O’Ward was fifth on a restart with seven laps remaining, but the 22-year-old from Mexico picked off Graham Rahal in the first turn, then Alex Palou in the next one for two passes in the first two turns. After passing Colton Herta for second, he set his sights on snatching what had seemed to be an easy victory for Newgarden away from the two-time IndyCar champion.

O’Ward went wheel-to-wheel with Newgarden and finally completed the pass with just over two laps remaining. O’Ward ultimately beat Newgarden by 6.7595 seconds and dedicated the win to Arrow McLaren SP teammate Felix Rosenqvist, who was hospitalized overnight following his crash in Saturday’s first race of the doubleheader.

“I talked to Felix this morning and the important thing is that he’s OK, but I told him ‘I’m going to win it for you,'” O’Ward said. “I’m a man of my word, I wanted to get it done for him.”

O’Ward, who earned his first career victory last month, took a one point lead over Palou in the championship standings. He has now won on an oval and a street course, and he finished third Saturday for two podiums at Detroit.

He removed his shoes after the podium presentation and dove into the James Scott Memorial Fountain, where he made a lap splashing the fans who had gathered on the side of the park landmark.

Newgarden started from the pole and led 67 of the 70 laps before O’Ward ran him down and dropped him to a second-place finish. Team Penske remains winless on the season.

“He was coming like a freight train,” Newgarden said of O’Ward.

Newgarden didn’t try to hide his frustration.

“Heartbreaking day when you finish second like that,” he said. “It’s hard not to be disappointed. I thought we had the car to beat.”

Palou finished third for Chip Ganassi Racing, which swept Saturday with a win by Marcus Ericsson in the IndyCar race and then the first victory for the Cadillac sports car team in the IMSA with Renger van der Zande and Kevin Magnussen.

Sunday’s IndyCar race was far less eventful than Saturday’s, when Rosenqvist’s crash led to a nearly 90 minute red flag and a later stoppage ultimately decided the race.

This time it was a Newgarden runaway until Romain Grosjean brought out a late caution with a brake fire and tried to put it out himself. His car came to a stop on the track and the Frenchman, who was nearly killed in a fire last November during a Formula One race in Bahrain, seemed to panic.

Small flames spit up from his right tire and he hurriedly climbed from the car, then wildly looked for a safety crew for assistance. Grosjean ran to the fence and grabbed a fire extinguisher from a race marshal who passed it through a hole and rushed back to his car, which had black smoke rising from the front.

The safety truck arrived as Grosjean got back to the car with the extinguisher, and he was pushed to the side and out of the way. He appeared frustrated as he handed the pin from the extinguisher to the worker.

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