There has been no shortage of challenges for the IndyCar Series over the course of this offseason, including, among many items, yet another hybrid delay.
Penske leadership met with a select group of drivers over dinner on Tuesday night, ahead of IndyCar’s annual Content Days, to answer questions and address concerns. O’Ward wasn’t part of that meeting, so his view was different than the optimism shared by attendees such as Arrow McLaren team-mate Alexander Rossi and Graham Rahal.
O’Ward has been outspoken throughout the offseason. Last month, prior to the hybrid delay, he told Motorsport.com that a new chassis should have been the priority over an updated engine. Speaking with the media on Thursday, the Mexican provided some strong thoughts about how IndyCar needs to push for innovative concepts to further fan engagement beyond the racing product.
“I’m only 24 years old, so I know there are a lot more people who have a lot more experience than I do,” O’Ward said.
“But from my years of life so far, when you see things grow — it could be a person, it could be a company, a business, a group of people. But when you’re just speaking of growth, change will usually kind of rattle people’s floor. It’ll kind of move things around. Some people will like it, and some people won’t like it.
“But when you don’t evolve and when you don’t change, you sure as hell will not grow. The only way to do that is to change things up.”
O’Ward suggested IndyCar’s ideals are outdated.
“The way that things grow nowadays is completely different to what it was 30 years ago,” O’Ward said.
“Keep in mind, I wasn’t alive 30 years ago, but I have heard a lot from my grandparents and my parents. I have seen what just 10 years has done and how the markets have shifted, with a lot of products and a lot of different things.
“I think having a good product, yes, like that is important. But ultimately, what you need is you want people to be present. You want people to be a part of something that’s just not race cars going around.
“I think we as a series are a perfect example of that because the racing is unbelievable. The racing is so good, but there is something missing that we have yet quite to crack. And I think there are a lot of examples that are going around in motorsports that have shown growth. It’s basically not a plug-and-play because every series is different, but you see how other series grow.
“I think the most simple way would be really see what is working for them; what is causing that to happen.”
While O’Ward admitted to being bullish in nature, some of his thinking comes from how he has seen Arrow McLaren make strides utilizing that tactic.
“I’ve always been from the mentality, everything I do, I always go 100 percent,” O’Ward said.
“I never do things halfway. Maybe that’s a bit aggressive to obviously a series or whatever, but we have the potential to be like two or three Xing, not growing five or 10 percent a year. We’re selling ourselves short by just wanting to grow incrementally like that.
“I think we really have the potential to see like massive gains, but just like in a lot of things, you just obviously have to fuel it if you want to see some of that double, triple, quadruple.
“I know I’m just a voice. Some people agree with me, and some people don’t agree with me. I believe at Arrow McLaren as a group, we are on the boat of definitely turbocharging it a bit and just getting it a bit more — taking more of an aggressive approach, which has been proven to work.
“I don’t know. I try and do my best to help and to bring new audiences and new people to the series because I feel like once people see and watch it, they’re going to want to stick around.
“The problem is you need to get it in front of as many eyes as you can.”