IndyCar Driver Preview: Simon Pagenaud

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#77 Simon Pagenaud

  • Team: Schmidt Hamilton Motorsports
  • Engine: Honda
  • Sponsors: HP
  • 2012: 5th Place, Four Podiums, Six Top Fives

2012 WRAP: Despite not winning a race, Pagenaud’s full-time return to open-wheel racing was still a smash. The Champ Car and sports car veteran quickly became one of the IZOD IndyCar Series’ top drivers, netting podium finishes at Long Beach, Belle Isle, Mid-Ohio and Baltimore. His run at the Beach may have been his most memorable of 2012, as he closed in on Will Power at an stellar rate of speed in the final laps before the Australian managed to hang on by eight-tenths of a second; he had been up by 5.9 seconds with five laps to go. Pagenaud also had some nice moments on the ovals, finishing sixth at Texas and fifth at Iowa.

2013 OUTLOOK: Pagenaud and SHM did a fantastic job as a single-car operation last season, and now the team has grown with rookie Tristan Vautier serving as his teammate. We’ll see how Pagenaud adapts to being a mentor, but he should be able to contend again this season with the strong team that he has behind him. However, he’ll have to start winning races over the Big Three teams (Andretti Autosport, Team Penske and Target Chip Ganassi Racing) in order to mount a legitimate title run against them. Continuing to hone his oval skills will also be a priority for him.

IndyCar star Scott Dixon to test skills on ‘American Ninja Warrior’

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CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) — Scott Dixon will be the latest IndyCar driver to enter the realm of reality TV when he auditions in Indianapolis next week for “American Ninja Warrior.”

The four-time IndyCar champion, nicknamed “The Iceman,” thought it sounded fun when he was approached with the idea of trying out. As the competition has drawn near, Dixon is wondering what he got himself into.

“I feel a lot of pressure on this one,” Dixon told The Associated Press before heading to this weekend’s Honda Grand Prix of Alabama IndyCar race at Barber Motorsports Park in Birmingham, Alabama. “When it got to be about a month away, I figured I should start training for it, and it’s pretty hard stuff.”

IndyCar drivers Helio Castroneves, Josef Newgarden and Tony Kanaan all auditioned for the show, which follows competitors as they tackle a series of obstacle courses in qualifying rounds across the country. None of IndyCar’s contestants advanced out of the first round and neither did NASCAR driver Ricky Stenhouse Jr.

Dixon’s appearance comes about the same time the Game Show Network has Sebastien Bourdais as a guest host for “Daily Draw” for the entire week leading into the month of May at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

Most recently, Alexander Rossi and Conor Daly teamed to finish fourth on “The Amazing Race,” and James Hinchcliffe was a runner-up last year on “Dancing With The Stars.” Castroneves is a former “DWTS” winner.

Dixon, the 2008 winner of the Indianapolis 500 who ranks fourth on IndyCar’s all-time wins list, is accustomed to success. But the New Zealander not so sure he’s going to become the next great ninja. Most of his fitness work focuses on endurance training, and preparing for the obstacle course has taken Dixon out of his element.

“It’s not my wheelhouse,” he said. “This is agility kind of stuff and I’m looking forward to the process. I’m not looking forward so much to the failure, because it’s going to happen at some point, so I guess I just have to make the most of it and enjoy the experience.”

Dixon was famously robbed at gunpoint in the drive-thru of a Taco Bell last year hours after he won the pole for the Indy 500. Asked if his ninja training will have him better prepared should that happen again, he did not think so.

“I suppose if I run away it would help,” Dixon said. “But I don’t exactly have a ninja toolkit to get me through that situation.”