Latino driver gears up for Firestone Grand Prix in St. Pete

Pinellas County

TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) – With the Firestone Grand Prix on Sunday, it’s hard to imagine how quickly time has sped by since the last street race in Downtown St. Petersburg.

Just four seconds away from victory last October, Patricio “Pato” O’Ward is excited, confident and ready to make the podium this weekend and pick up where he and his team left off in St. Petersburg and Birmingham.

“Yeah, I can’t wait for this weekend! I love St. Petersburg. Not just the racetrack but it’s the first street track that we go to this year. Everything about St. Petersburg is awesome. I love going there! It’s a track that I really enjoy driving,” said O’Ward. “So, we’re expecting an adventurous and sort of chaotic weekend. You can always expect things to go pretty crazy whenever it’s the first street course of the calendar and everybody wants to be up close and upfront watching. It’s going to be good!”

With incredible speed, O’Ward continues to provide pressure for his competitors time and time again. Although he won the NTT P1 Award for pole position Saturday at the Firestone Fast Six and set the track record in the second round of qualifying with a lap of 1:05.5019, he came in fourth overall in Alabama.

However, Indycar is more than just speed and competition. The motor sport provides a platform for talented athletes to come together and represent different generations, countries and cultures.

Proud of his roots, the Mexican driver is overwhelmed by the love he’s received from the Latino community thus far saying, “It’s massive! It’s really important to me to put my flag as high as I can. They have been behind me supporting me throughout the years. The support is great. It’s truly appreciated. I feel it. You definitely feel it. When the day doesn’t go the way you wanted it to go and you see everybody pushing you and saying ‘hey good job’– it’s big. It’s really big. Just like any other driver I want to give the [Latino community] a reason to celebrate every Sunday.”

And as O’Ward mentioned, “the weather looks fantastic Friday, Saturday looks dry and then maybe a few showers on Sunday. It’ll make things more interesting than what they already are. It’s going to be good!” 

If you plan on going to the race here’s a quick look at your weekend forecast:

Be sure to watch O’Ward this Sunday at 12 p.m. on News Channel 8.

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