Clutch problem hinders Alonso at Indy as O’Ward stars

Arrow McLaren SP-Chevrolet was left with a mixture of frustration, satisfaction and relief as Fernando Alonso, Patricio O’Ward and Oliver Askew experienced wildly differing results in the Indianapolis 500.

O’Ward delivered a well deserved sixth place after climbing to a legitimate third in the race, behind only Scott Dixon and Alexander Rossi, and then containing his natural exuberance and frustration as the car’s balance went away and began to look skittish.

“My crew did an amazing job in the pit stops,” said the 2018 Indy Lights champion, who was classified as an Indy 500 rookie, after his DNQ in 2019. “We were fighting up there with Dixon, Rossi and Takuma Sato – great job to him.

“Toward the end, we just didn’t have enough to get those in front of us. I think we juiced out the car and got everything out of it.

“We were right behind Josef [Newgarden] in fifth for Chevrolet, so I think it was a good job for my first-ever Indy 500. Obviously, here the only thing that matters is winning. I’m excited to come back next year and try and get that win, as this place is pretty special.”

With this result, O’Ward has moved up to third in the championship, headed only by Dixon and Newgarden.

His full-time teammate and another Indy 500 rookie, Oliver Askew, had a major shunt after starting 21st and going off strategy with Team Penske’s three former Indy winners, Simon Pagenaud, Will Power and Helio Castroneves.

When this quartet’s tactics came into play and they hit the front of the field, Askew was able to pass and hold off Power and Castroneves and run second, and looked their equal when running in the pack, too.

However, as the field came to the green at a restart on Lap 92, Conor Daly spun his Ed Carpenter Racing-Chevrolet through Turn 4, and when Askew hit the brakes in the resultant smoke, his car speared off left, spun and struck the inside wall’s SAFER barrier hard, just before pit entrance.

Looking stunned and winded, he emerged from the cockpit and was checked and released from the infield medical care center.

“First of all, I need to thank the AMR Safety Team, Dallara and IndyCar for keeping us as safe as possible in these cars going these speeds,” said the reigning Indy Lights champion who scored his first podium just last month at Iowa Speedway.

“I’m sorry for the #7 Arrow McLaren SP team. They’ve worked so hard all week, all month, all year building up to this event. So, to have a result like this is really sad for all of us, but we will move on to Gateway next weekend.

“I was really happy with the pace we had and the aggressive strategies we were running. We were trying to make something happen, with passing being at a premium at this race. Thanks again to the team for all their hard work.”

Alonso’s return to the Brickyard ended in disappointment, finishing 21st and a lap down, after going off-strategy initially like Askew and three of the Penske entries, but struggling to capitalize, partly due to a clutch problem.

The two-time F1 world champion explained: “We were struggling from the very beginning with the balance of the car with a lot of oversteer. We kept changing that balance in the pit stops, reducing the front flap, doing tire adjustments, and then we started to be happy with the car. We were up to P15 around Lap 110, which is where we wanted to be…

“Then we had a clutch problem on the car that we didn’t know how to solve. We finished the race without the clutch, so from that point on, every pit stop we had to push the car, engage the gear and go. That cost us a lap and unfortunately, we kept that lap down until the end and we could not achieve anything more.

“I’m happy to finish the race, cross the line and have one 500 miles in the pocket, that’s the positive thing. The negative is that we were out of contention very quickly with the clutch problem.

“Anyway, I think the Arrow McLaren SP team was fantastic during the race. The strategy and pit stops meant we were always gaining positions. I’m very proud of the work we’ve done over the last couple of weeks. We tried to race, but luck was not with us today, but I’m proud of the effort from everyone in the team.”

Alonso has already ruled out Indy 500 attempts in 2021 and ’22 because he will be returning to Formula 1 with Renault, replacing McLaren-bound Daniel Ricciardo.

Fernando Alonso, Arrow McLaren SP Chevrolet

Photo by: Barry Cantrell / Motorsport Images

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