Simon Pagenaud’s evolution into a Verizon IndyCar Series championship contender has attracted the attention of one of the series’ big teams.
Andretti Autosport owner Michael Andretti has told The Associated Press that he’s interested in acquiring the Frenchman’s services for next season, although he did not disclose if that means his team would add a fifth car.
Andretti also stressed that “we’re a long ways away from something” in his comments.
“He’s one of the top guys out here, and he’s a really good guy, too,” Andretti said of Pagenaud, who is in his third season of racing for Schmidt Peterson Motorsports. “He’d fit in great with our team.”
For his part, Pagenaud played it cool when he talked about Andretti’s interest in him. He told the AP that such interest lets him know that he’s doing a good job.
“You have job security when you are in that position because you know there’s interest in you,” Pagenaud said. “People have noticed the job you are doing.”
As for his prospects to either join Andretti or stay with Schmidt, Pagenaud only said: “We’ll see what happens next.”
Since coming to IndyCar full-time in 2012, Pagenaud has made steady progress to become of the series’ top drivers.
After finishing an impressive fifth in the ’12 overall championship, he improved on that last year with a third-place finish on the strength of wins at Detroit and Baltimore.
Going into this weekend’s Shell/Pennzoil Grand Prix of Houston doubleheader, Pagenaud sits fourth in the standings at 91 points behind championship leader Will Power. He won the inaugural Grand Prix of Indianapolis last month on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course.
The NTT IndyCar Series will be sharing Indianapolis Motor Speedway with the NASCAR Cup Series in a race weekend doubleheader for the second consecutive season, but both series will be on the road course in August 2021.
IMS announced Wednesday that IndyCar will hold an Aug. 14, 2021 race on its 14-turn, 2.439-mile road course. It’ll be a day before NASCAR’s premier series runs the same layout for the first time after the Brickyard 400 was contested on the 2.5-mile oval for the first time in 27 years.
This season’s rescheduling of the IndyCar GMR Grand Prix to July 4, 2019 (a day before the Brickyard 400) led to the first NASCAR-IndyCar doubleheader weekend. The Xfinity Series also raced on the IMS road course for the first time July 4 after the IndyCar race ended.
INDYCAR AT IMS THIS WEEKEND: Harvest GP schedule, entry lists
IndyCar will be holding its second race weekend this year at the IMS road course Friday and Saturday with the Harvest GP.
“Our first NASCAR-INDYCAR weekend was a big success last July, with positive feedback from
our loyal fans who watched the races on NBC and from the drivers, teams and participants
involved,” IMS president Douglas Boles said in a statement. “The Xfinity Series’ debut on the IMS road course provided exactly the kind of thrilling action from the green to checkered flags that we anticipated, so we know the teams and drivers of the Cup Series will put on a great show as they turn left and right for the first time at IMS.
“We can’t wait to welcome back fans to see NASCAR and INDYCAR together during this
exciting weekend as we add another memorable chapter in the long, storied history of the
Indianapolis Motor Speedway.”
It also will mark the first NASCAR Cup-IndyCar doubleheader with a crowd as fans weren’t permitted at IMS in July because of the novel coronvavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
Over the course of Wednesday, NASCAR is releasing its 36-race slate for next season. IndyCar has yet to release its full 2021 schedule.