Arrow McLaren hopes to build momentum after posting strong performance at Indianapolis 500

arrow mclaren hopes to build momentum after posting strong performance at indianapolis 500

Pato O'Ward, of Mexico, front center, is comforted by a crew member after finishing second in the Indianapolis 500 auto race at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, Sunday, May 26, 2024, in Indianapolis. (AP Photo/Darron Cummings)

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Arrow McLaren came to Indianapolis looking for a fresh start.

It's leaving with some long faces amid a potentially momentum-changing performance.

The team put its program back on track with two top-five finishes and a strong overall performance in Sunday's Indianapolis 500.

“Very proud of what Arrow McLaren did for not just me, but for everybody within the team,” race runner-up Pato O'Ward said. “I think I can speak on behalf of Kyle (Larson), Alex (Rossi) and Callum (Ilott). They gave us the tools to fight. They gave us the tools to be there.”

While none of the team's four drivers got the traditional post-race milk bath, they certainly exceeded the expectations entering May.

O'Ward and Rossi, the 2016 Indy winner, each led 12 laps and was vying for the lead in the final laps with O'Ward coming within two turns of becoming the first Mexican race winner.

arrow mclaren hopes to build momentum after posting strong performance at indianapolis 500

Alexander Rossi passes his teammate entering the first turn during the Indianapolis 500 auto race at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, Sunday, May 26, 2024, in Indianapolis. (AP Photo/Darron Cummings)

Larson was well positioned for a top-five finish in his IndyCar debut — until being penalized for a speeding violation on pit row. He wound up 18th.

And even after Ilott was forced to start from the back of the field and got hit along pit row, the English driver still managed to finish 11th.

Arrow McLaren couldn't have scripted a much better finish — other than making a trip to victory lane. It was a welcome reprieve for a team that opened the month by seeing O'Ward collect the winning trophy from the series' season opener in St. Petersburg, Florida, only after Josef Newgarden was stripped of the victory because of a cheating scandal.

arrow mclaren hopes to build momentum after posting strong performance at indianapolis 500

Alexander Rossi pits during the Indianapolis 500 auto race at Indianapolis Motor Speedway in Indianapolis, Sunday, May 26, 2024. (AP Photo/AJ Mast)

The scenario looked even bleaker when only one of Arrow McLaren's three drivers, Rossi, posted a top-10 finish in the Indianapolis Grand Prix.

But last weekend things began to change.

Rossi and Larson each qualified in the top five, O'Ward qualified eighth and Ilott, who was making his third start of the IndyCar season, qualified 15th. The four drivers followed that up with another good effort Sunday, one Arrow McLaren hopes will lead to even better days over this season's final 12 races.

arrow mclaren hopes to build momentum after posting strong performance at indianapolis 500

Pato O'Ward, of Mexico, reacts after finishing second in the Indianapolis 500 auto race at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, Sunday, May 26, 2024, in Indianapolis. (AP Photo/Darron Cummings)

“I know how much work we’ve all put into just making the team take that step into where we want to be,” O'Ward said. “I’ve really enjoyed the month with my teammates and with my engineer, my performance engineer, all the team bosses. It was a very strong result as a team today for us."

PALOU CONTENDS AGAIN

Two-time and reigning IndyCar champion Alex Palou had a relatively quiet Indianapolis 500 that ended with him up front yet again. Palou finished fifth to give Chip Ganassi Racing two top-five finishes with Scott Dixon placing third.

Palou has won nearly everywhere in the series, including the road course at Indianapolis Motor Speedway earlier this month, but has yet to win “The Greatest Spectacle in Racing.” He was second in 2021, ninth the next year and fourth last year, giving the 27-year-old from Spain four straight top-10s with three of those in the top five.

The Ganassi team had mixed results.

Kyffin Simpson finished 21st, while fellow rookies Marcus Armstrong and Linus Lundqvist both had early exits. Armstrong had an engine let go while Lundqvist was involved in a crash.

ENGINE TROUBLE

Last weekend, Chevrolet officials were answering questions about why its engines were having trouble in qualifying. On Sunday, it was Honda's turn.

Three drivers — Armstrong, Katherine Legge, the only woman on the starting grid, and Felix Rosenqvist — all dropped out because of mechanical issues and all three appeared to be problematic engines.

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AP Sports Writer Dave Skretta also contributed to this report.

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AP auto racing: https://apnews.com/hub/auto-racing

Michael Marot, The Associated Press

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