IndyCar team owner Michael Andretti told Autoweek that he offered Pato O’Ward an 8-race deal with Andretti Autosport to compete in the NTT IndyCar Series, but it was turned down. Andretti revealed that to Autoweek after Tuesday’s “Spring Training” preseason open test at Circuit of the Americas.

“I offered him a ride in one of our cars for eight races this year and he turned it down. He wanted a full season,” Andretti said. “He had a pretty good offer on the table, and he turned it down. I offered that to him this past weekend.

“I don’t know what he is going to do, now. Maybe he has something else.”

O’Ward, the 2018 Indy Lights Series champion, was set to be part of a two-car team at Harding Steinbrenner Racing along with 18-year-old Colton Herta, his Indy Lights teammate at Andretti Autosport last season. But on Monday, O’Ward announced that he was leaving the team effective immediately.

Harding Steinbrenner Racing president Brian Barnhart said the team was unable to find the additional sponsorship needed to fund a two-car operation. That is the reason why O’Ward left the team, because the 19-year-old driver from Mexico is determined to find a full-season ride.

Andretti, however, believes it may be too late for that to happen.

“It’s always dependent on cars and money,” Andretti said. “He had an opportunity and decided he thought he could do something better with someone else.

“Good luck. Maybe he’ll find it.

“I spent a lot of time on the phone with him trying to convince him to do it and he dug in that he had to do a full season. I told him I can’t do that. I wish I could offer it to him, but I couldn’t.”

Ironically, Herta ended up being the fastest driver in Tuesday’s test session with a fast time of 1:46.6258 around the 20-turn, 3.41-mile Circuit of the Americas for a fast speed of 115.132 miles per hour in the No. 88 Honda.

“The car was good right out of the box,” Herta said. “I think that's kind of what put us there. Obviously, a new track to the NTT IndyCar Series, a new track to every team really. Yeah, everybody is just getting situated, trying to get the cars up to speed, find the right balance.

“It's a really tough balance to find because you have the fast-flowing stuff, and the really slow stuff is pretty tricky here. Yeah, trying to find that right balance. I guess we did that in session and that's why we were on top.

“We still went quickest. I'm super proud about it. Not really surprised, I guess, because I knew if I could put the lap together, it would be quick. To be quickest is pretty cool.”

Team Penske’s Will Power was second in the combined sessions at 1:47.1044 (114.617 mph) in a Chevrolet. He was followed by teammate Helio Castroneves’ Chevy at 1:47.6949 (113.989 mph) in another Chevrolet.

Two Chip Ganassi Racing drivers rounded out the top five. Rookie Felix Rosenqvist was fourth at 1:48.0451 (113.619 mph) followed by five-time IndyCar Series champion Scott Dixon’s 1:48.0474 (113.617 mph) – both in Hondas.

Spring Training continues Wednesday with another full day of testing for the 25 driver/car entries in the NTT IndyCar Series.

Source: Autoweek

February 13, 2019