IndyCar Driver Review: Simon Pagenaud

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With the IndyCar season in the books and a limited amount of news to come since the season finale at Fontana, my MotorSportsTalk colleague Chris Estrada and are taking a look back at the 2013 season just past. Chris and I each ranked our top 10 drivers and some of the biggest stories; now we take a look back at the field driver-by-driver.

In third place, the giant-killer and emerging star, Simon Pagenaud…


Simon Pagenaud

  • Team: Schmidt Hamilton Motorsports
  • 2012: 5th Place, Best Finish 2nd, Best Start 3rd
  • 2013: 3rd Place, 2 Wins, Best Start 3rd, 3 Podiums, 5 Top-5, 13 Top-10, 39 Laps Led, 11.6 Avg. Start, 8.3 Avg. Finish

DiZinno says: Pagenaud finishing third in the No. 77 HP SHM Honda is the IndyCar equivalent of the Pittsburgh Pirates making the playoffs versus the large market baseball teams. The Schmidt team has found a way to do more with less, and coupled with a driver renowned for his technical expertise and car development ability, they overachieved for the second straight year. Pagenaud continued to work in harmony with engineer Ben Bretzman, team manager Rob Edwards and the rest of this crew. Yeah, their qualifying could have been better, but a pair of wins and no finish worse than 13th outside of a DNF at St. Pete was a pretty damn good year.

Estrada says: After going fifth in the 2012 title race, the question was whether or not Pagenaud and Schmidt Hamilton Motorsports could continue their progress and truly evolve into a top-tier team. In 2013, they emphatically answered in the affirmative – two wins at Belle Isle (Race 2) and Baltimore, plus 13 Top-10s altogether, showed that the Pagenaud/SHM pairing is one that has championship potential. If they can buckle down on Saturdays and get a bit higher up on the starting grid, it could unlock more Sunday podiums for the Frenchman next year. Altogether, you can’t help but be impressed at what the No. 77 camp has been doing over the last couple of seasons.

NHRA: John Force-like motor explosions get contagious during Sunday’s Gatornationals

Photo and video courtesy NHRA
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John Force is rubbing off on others – but probably not the way they or he would like.

The 16-time NHRA Funny Car champion has had spectacular motor explosions in each of the first three races of the new NHRA season, including during Friday’s qualifying for this weekend’s Gatornationals.

During Sunday’s quarterfinals of eliminations, Force’s teammate (and son-in-law and president of John Force Racing) Robert Hight squared off with fellow Funny Car driver Matt Hagan.

As the duo closed in on the finish line, both cars experienced spectacular motor explosions of their own – virtually side-by-side and nearly at the same time.

Hight’s car was the first to explode, tossing its body high in the air. A split-second later, Hagan’s car exploded, also sending the body flying.

Check out the NHRA video:

Hight wound up losing the race.

Hagan, meanwhile, and his crack pit crew rolled their backup car off the hauler, put in a new motor and went on to race through the semifinals and into the finals, losing to race winner “Fast Jack” Beckman.

“We had a pretty great race day, to be honest,” Hagan said. “I’ve never been to the finals in Gainesville.

“We obviously had a huge blow up in the second round, then to watch these guys pull the other car back out and put it together in the amount of time they had, then turn a win light on against Capps (Don Schumacher Racing teammate Ron Capps in the semifinals), then to be able to go to a final, it was huge and it speaks for itself.”

As for Hight, here’s his take on what happened with the motor explosion:

“I couldn’t see (Hagan) over there and it wasn’t like it was hazing the tires or anything else. As it turns out it wasn’t spinning at all. It kicked two rods out when it blacked the bearings in the crank then it hit the valves and blew up.

“The thing gave me no indication at all before that. What really scared me was once I got it under control and I look over and see his body is off his car. I am thinking ‘Oh man, he got gathered up in me.’ Then I stood up and looked and his injector was sideways so I realized he had an explosion as well. We are just lucky we didn’t get into each other.”

As for the guy who has had so much trouble in the motor department, John Force, he lost in the first round of Sunday’s eliminations to daughter Courtney Force.

John Force planned on shutting the motor off on his car at around the 700-foot mark of the 1,000-foot dragstrip, not wanting to risk another motor explosion – even though it meant a likely loss to his daughter.

Now John Force and his entire four-car team, including Courtney Force, Robert Hight and daughter and Top Fuel driver Brittany Force, will be off for extensive testing to try and determine what’s been causing the motor explosions.

“We have to evaluate it and go test,” Force said. “We’ll figure it out.”

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