Few would argue that Simon Pagenaud has entered the highest echelon of drivers currently competing in the Verizon IndyCar Series at the moment.
As Pagenaud looks to take down the relative mights of Team Penske, Andretti Autosport and Target Chip Ganassi Racing and deliver a title for the Schmidt Peterson Hamilton Motorsports organization, he can put himself in better contention with his first career oval win.
Iowa Speedway this weekend for the Iowa Corn Indy 300 presented by DEKALB presents a pretty good place for Pagenaud to pull it off.
Pagenaud turned in one of his best career drives at Iowa two years ago, coming from 25th and last on the grid up to fifth. A year ago, he was sixth after starting eighth.
Considering Iowa is a high-speed track but only 0.875 of a mile, it races a bit like a road course, and that plays to Pagenaud’s benefit.
“Compared to the superspeedways on the IndyCar schedule, the biggest difference you’ll see at Iowa is the larger wings on the cars,” Pagenaud said in the team’s advance release. “We use the road course wing so that we have more downforce. You can be way more aggressive than on a superspeedway, where it’s all about being smooth and on the edge of grip.”
At 402 points, Pagenaud sits 44 behind Penske teammates Will Power and Helio Castroneves. A win would gain him at least 10 on either of them, and it would also make him the first driver to win three races this year.
“We’ve caught up a lot of points in the last three races, picking up 50 points on the lead,” Pagenaud said. “We’ve been competitive everywhere, and I feel confident where we’re sitting. The next few races coming up suit me well, and anything is possible at this point. We’re right in the hunt with seven races left, and this is a very exciting time for Schmidt Peterson Motorsports.”
Pagenaud’s future remains a question mark as reports began at the Houston weekend that other teams are seeking his services for 2015 and beyond.
But for now, he remains the man to watch as the proverbial thorn in the big teams’ sides. An oval win would only add to that distinction.