Simon Pagenaud goes into IndyCar Grand Prix with justifiable confidence
- A road course specialist, Simon Pagenaud has done particularly well at the IndyCar Grand Prix
Simon Pagenaud owns the IndyCar Grand Prix. When the road course event was launched at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in 2014, Pagenaud won it. He won it again last year. All told, he has gone two for three on the road course.
But what is it that makes him so good at the race? Asked that question this week, Pagenaud chuckled.
“That’s a good question,” Pagenaud, the current points leader and 2016 champion of the IndyCar series, said. He noted some of the aspects of the track that are amenable to his style, as a driver who cut his teeth on the road courses of Europe. But then he pointed to another factor.
“There are places where you have good luck and places where you have bad luck, and the Grand Prix of Indy has always been a very good place for me,” Pagenaud said. “There are things you can’t explain.”
As he prepares for this year’s edition of the race, scheduled for Saturday as the kickoff for the month of May for IndyCar, he will be looking for more good fortune at the fifth event in the 2017 IndyCar Series.
Pagenaud enters the race on a high. Despite his more extensive history with road courses, he notched a bit of a personal landmark victory at the end of April when he won the Desert Diamond West Valley Phoenix Grand Prix. The victory represented Pagenaud’s first ever on an oval race track.
IndyCar’s diversity in race tracks provides a certain uniqueness, and it also provides a challenge for its drivers. Pagenaud won the 2016 IndyCar series championship, but he doesn’t hide his preference for the road courses.
“For me it’s a bit more natural, so it’s a lot easier to get into that mode,” Pagenaud said. “The biggest challenge on the road course is to mentally get the best out of yourself and being able to bring your A-game on that day. That’s the biggest difficulty, and it’s definitely a huge challenge with the competition being so strong.”
That competition at Saturday's 207.3-mile event includes Scott Dixon, currently second in the IndyCar series standings, and Sebastien Bourdais, who led the IndyCar points chase before getting derailed by a first-lap crash in Phoenix. Bourdais dropped to fourth in the standings, a spot behind Josef Newgarden, a teammate of Pagenaud on Team Penske. Dixon won the 2015 IndyCar Series. Pagenaud and Dixon have managed top-five finishes in all four races in this year’s IndyCar series.
Pagenaud jumped from fourth to first in the standings with his victory in Phoenix. He said he is now keeping his focus on the IndyCar Grand Prix, one of his favorite races, and is not looking ahead to the looming Indianapolis 500.
“The excitement for the 500 is huge,” Pagenaud said. “You still need to be very disciplined, just focus on the task right now.”
Pagenaud said his schedule is jam-packed as he heads into the heart of May. He said it is the busiest month of his year, as tries to balance his attention between fans “who show up en masse” and the races themselves.
On Saturday, Pagenaud will look to recapture his good luck at the IndyCar Grand Prix, and keep his momentum after the win in Phoenix.
“[I’ll] just go in there with more confidence than usual,” Pagenaud said, “knowing a little better what to do to win the race.”
The IndyCar Grand Prix will air at 3:30 p.m. ET on ABC.