Pagenaud: “It’s a tremendous opportunity for my career”


When Roger Penske calls, you have to listen. And that was the overriding point Simon Pagenaud made Monday afternoon, in making the shift to join Team Penske as the fourth member of its Verizon IndyCar Series team.

“It’s definitely the next step in my career,” Pagenaud said during a Team Penske conference call Monday. “I’ve worked my whole life for this, so it’s perfect timing. Helio (Castroneves), Will (Power) and Juan (Pablo Montoya) – having three teammates like them is a huge help as a driver to complete yourself. I’m very excited. It’s a tremendous opportunity for my career.”

While it is a four-driver lineup, immediate focus will shift on Pagenaud and Power being under the same roof.

The two were teammates during Pagenaud’s first full year in the Champ Car series, in 2007, then driving for Derrick Walker’s Team Australia. This past year, the two drivers butted heads on occasion in what was one of IndyCar’s best rivalries.

“Will is the champion,” Pagenaud said. “He’s a tremendous driver. Yes we’ve had our contact on track, but you need to grow as a driver. We’ve known each other for a long time, and enjoyed working together at the time.

“Our job to make it work, for all of us. I don’t see any problem why it won’t work.”

He hasn’t talked to Power since this news broke, but Pagenaud did confirm all four drivers will be together at a Verizon event on Tuesday.

Speaking of commercial partners and/or personnel, Team Penske president Tim Cindric said no determinations have been made on either of those yet.

It remains to be seen whether Pagenaud’s longtime engineer, Ben Bretzman, will make the shift over as well.

No date has been set for a first test, although Cindric confirmed Pagenaud will be out before the end of the year.

Cindric did confirm Pagenaud will run No. 22 next season. The choice is an intriguing one because Team Penske also runs the No. 22 in NASCAR and has Shell and Pennzoil sponsorship already present; in years past, it has served as a full-time associate and occasional primary sponsor of Castroneves’ No. 3 car.

Power, Montoya and Castroneves are set to run Nos. 1, 2 and 3 next season, per Cindric, so 4 could have been an option.

Cindric explained the courting process of reaching out to Pagenaud, and how it differed from the team adding a third car for Montoya last offseason.

“The fortunate thing is we have an owner committed to winning and to opportunity,” Cindric said. “We have to have those resources in place to where it can stand on its own.

“This is different than a Montoya situation, because we didn’t have one discussion whatsoever. This one, we had the process in place beyond our existing sponsors.

“We have a very good marketing team. With the length of this offseason, we have more time to raise those budgets.”

One of the other items Pagenaud addressed were rumors he’d been approached by Nissan to drive for its LMP1 program, which will premiere in the FIA World Endurance Championship in 2015.

“I’ve been always interested in sports car, have had a great career, but my goal was to go back to IndyCar in 2012,” he said. “I had a successful time and great opportunities. Yes I’ve been in talks with Nissan, good talks, but I was interested in my opportunities in IndyCar.”

Lastly, Pagenaud thanked Honda for all they’d done for his career, but said the lure of driving for Penske was key to his choice to switch to a Chevrolet squad.

“They’ve done a lot for me. It’s been a great relationship, but sometimes you have to choose. My dream has been to drive for Roger.”

Texas starting lineup: Felix Rosenqvist back on pole; Scott Dixon qualifies second


FORT WORTH, Texas — For the second consecutive year, Felix Rosenqvist will lead the NTT IndyCar Series starting lineup to the green flag at Texas Motor Speedway.

The Arrow McLaren driver is hoping the third time will be the charm at the 1.5-mile oval, where he has run extremely well but has only a career-best 12th in five starts.

“We’ve always been good here, but this is a whole different confidence level compared to last year,” Rosenqvist told NBC Sports’ Marty Snider. “Let’s try to wrap it up (Sunday).”

In 2020, Rosenqvist was competing for a podium when he crashed with 10 laps remaining at Texas.

QUALIFYING RESULTS: Click here for speeds from Saturday’s time trials

INDYCAR AT TEXASSchedule, start times, how to watch on NBC, Peacock

Last year, he started first on an oval for the first time in his career but finished 21st because of a broken halfshaft.

“It’s definitely one of my favorite tracks, and naturally, I’ve always been OK here,” Rosenqvist said. “It was the first oval that made sense to me. Every year I’m building on that. But looking at the results, they don’t represent the speed I normally have.

“I don’t want to jinx anything, but I hope tomorrow is going to go a bit better and some luck our way would be nice. It’s been feeling super good. Arrow McLaren has been mega every session, so just keep it rolling.”

Arrow McLaren qualified all three of its Chevrolets in the top five, building on a second for Pato O’Ward and fourth for Alexander Rossi in the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg.

The March 5 season opener was a disappointing start for Rosenqvist who was squeezed into the wall by Scott Dixon on the first lap.

Dixon, a five-time winner at Texas, will start second Sunday, followed by Rossi and Josef Newgarden. O’Ward will start fifth alongside Takuma Sato, who will start on the outside of the third row in his Chip Ganassi Racing debut.

During nearly four hours of practice and qualifying (including a special high-line session), Saturday’s lone incident involved Conor Daly.

The Ed Carpenter Racing driver spun three times but stayed off the wall and in the frontstretch grass. Aside from a front wing change and new tires, there was no damage to his No. 20 Dallara-Chevrolet during the incident midway through the 30-minute session in which drivers were limited to the high line.

“I hadn’t really had a moment before, but it snapped really aggressively,” Daly told NBC Sports after final practice. “Not ideal, but I do know my way around correcting a spin it seems like. I drove NASCAR last weekend and that seemed to help a little bit. I drove in the dirt a lot in USAC Midgets and seemed to be able to save something but not ideal or what we wanted to have happen.”

Daly will start 25th of 28 cars alongside teammate Rinus VeeKay in Row 13. Carpenter qualified 18th.

“Our three of our cars were clearly looking for something. Mechanical grip is for sure what we need. Qualifying we actually expected to be a lot better, but we found an issue there. We’ll see what happens. This race can change a lot. I’m confident in the team to hopefully figure some things out for tomorrow.”

Here’s the IndyCar starting lineup for Sunday’s PPG 375 at Texas Motor Speedway (qualifying position, car number in parentheses, driver, engine and speed):


1. (6) Felix Rosenqvist, Dallara-Chevy, 220.264 mph
2. (9) Scott Dixon, Dallara-Honda, 219.972


3. (7) Alexander Rossi, Dallara-Chevy, 219.960
4. (2) Josef Newgarden, Dallara-Chevy, 219.801


5. (5) Pato O’Ward, Dallara-Chevy, 219.619
6. (11) Takuma Sato, Dallara-Honda, 219.508


7. (10) Alex Palou, Dallara-Honda, 219.480
8. (12) Will Power, Dallara-Chevy, 219.355


9. (18) David Malukas, Dallara-Honda, 219.256
10. (26) Colton Herta, Dallara-Honda, 219.184


11. (28) Romain Grosjean, Dallara-Honda, 219.165
12. (29) Devlin DeFrancesco, Dallara-Honda, 219.146

ROW 7 

13. (55) Benjamin Pedersen, Dallara-Chevy, 219.100
14. (14) Santino Ferrucci, Dallara-Chevy, 218.892


15. (3) Scott McLaughlin, Dallara-Chevy, 218.765
16. (8) Marcus Ericsson, Dallara-Honda, 218.698


17. (77) Callum Ilott, Dallara-Chevy, 218.427
18. (33) Ed Carpenter, Dallara-Chevy, 218.375

ROW 10

19. (78) Agustin Canapino, Dallara-Chevy, 218.367
20. (27) Kyle Kirkwood, Dallara-Honda, 218.227

ROW 11

21. (06) Helio Castroneves, Dallara-Honda, 218.196
22. (60) Simon Pagenaud, Dallara-Honda, 218.103

ROW 12

23. (51) Sting Ray Robb, Dallara-Honda, 217.676
24. (15) Graham Rahal, Dallara-Honda, 217.611

ROW 13

25. (20) Conor Daly, Dallara-Chevy, 217.457
26. (21) Rinus VeeKay, Dallara-Chevy, 216.880

ROW 14

27. (45) Christian Lundgaard, Dallara-Honda, 216.210
28. (30) Jack Harvey, Dallara-Honda, 216.103