Not too many of us can say we knew exactly what we wanted to do for a living at age 6. Even fewer can say they succeeded in their career path just 10 years later at the age of 16.
But that was the road for two-time Indycar Series winner Pato O’Ward.
After winning at Texas Motor Speedway and on Belle Isle in Detroit, O’Ward joined the Arrow McLaren SP team. Now, the 22-year-old Mexican driver is racing in his third full-time season in IndyCar with the team.
The young driver has experience with the Long Beach track and says it does present some challenges. “It’s a street course,” said O’Ward. “You’re around walls, there’s not a lot of room for error, it’s a difficult track just because it’s technical.”
He says because it is such a tight race, the emphasis is on qualifying and starting toward the front. O’Ward is also thankful the weather will be cooler for Saturday’s qualifier and Sunday’s race, but he says often people overlook the physicality of racing.
“People think, oh they just get in the car and they drive,” said O’Ward. “But your body goes through a lot of stress. Your neck goes through a lot of stress. Your back, your spine, your legs. It’s tough! It’s really really tough.”
O’Ward says he works out often to make sure his body is prepared for the physical challenges of racing. Mentally, he stays in the moment. After Sunday’s race, O’Ward and the McLaren team will head to Birmingham, Alabama, which O’Ward says is the most physical race on the calendar.
The IndyCar race in Long Beach, the third in the series, gets underway at 12:30 p.m. Sunday, and will be broadcast on network television.