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…

2013 SEASON PREVIEW

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.

WATCH: Red Bull F1 team completes pit stop in zero gravity

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The Red Bull Racing pit crew may have already made headlines last weekend when it completed the fastest pit stop in Formula One history, changing Max Verstappen’s tires in 1.82 seconds, but the team’s most recent stunt took their skills to new heights – quite literally.

With the help of the Russian Space agency Roscomos, a group of the team’s mechanics completed the world’s first zero-gravity pit stop, on-board a IIyushin II-76K cosmonaut training plane.

Using a 2005 BR1, the team filmed the viral video over the course of a week, enduring seven flights and about 80 parabolas – periods in which the plane climbs 45 degrees before falling again at a ballistic arch of 45 degrees, creating a period of weightlessness for approximately 22 seconds.

With such a short time frame between weightlessness periods, the car and equipment had to be both quickly and safely secured before gravity once again took effect. Each filming lasted roughly 15 seconds, and the stunt was the most physically and technically demanding activity the live demo team had ever undertaken.

“It pushed us harder than I thought it would,” said Red Bull Support Team Mechanic Joe Robinson. “You realize how much you rely on gravity when you don’t have any!

“It challenges you to think and operate in a different way – and that was brilliant. It was a once in a lifetime opportunity and honestly, I could have stayed and done it all month. It was amazing. I think it’s the coolest, most fun thing the Live Demo team has ever done with a show car.”

Though Red Bull was the first team to perform a pit stop in zero gravity, surprisingly Red Bull was not the first team to put a car through zero gravity. In 1999, McLaren driver David Coulthard and his car experienced zero gravity as part of a promotion for then-sponsor West Cigarettes.

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