IndyCar: Pagenaud adjusting nicely to changes for 2015 season


His hometown has changed. His team has changed. His car and manufacturer have changed.

Just as importantly, so has his hair and business attire at the track.

About the only thing that hasn’t changed for Simon Pagenaud in 2015 is his talent level, and the Frenchman’s ability to develop new machinery and then wring the neck out of it should be one of the most fascinating storylines to watch in the Verizon IndyCar Series season.

Pagenaud’s move from Honda-powered Schmidt Peterson Motorsports to Chevrolet-powered Team Penske was one that was as earth shattering as could possibly occur in modern day IndyCar.

The rich got richer as Penske expanded to a fourth IndyCar for the first time, but for Pagenaud, it was an opportunity he had to take.

It is a chance that is a case of both driver and team “future-proofing” themselves. Pagenaud has the stability of a team with Penske’s accolades, history and reputation, and Penske has, along with defending series champion Will Power, two drivers for the next five or six years, provided Juan Pablo Montoya and Helio Castroneves are closer to the ends of their careers than the beginning.

Along with the move came the other elements that make a driver Penske material: the all-black attire, the shorter hair, and a move from Indianapolis to Charlotte.

It was that, he said, that is one of the bigger adjustments he’ll make in 2015 even more than the team or car change.

“It’s been good. It’s actually been easy,” Pagenaud told MotorSportsTalk. “I had so much time. It was a good thing to have so much time (this offseason) to adjust.

“The move was a big thing. I had been in Indy for nine years. My American roots were built there. My business was there, so I had to move all that, and adjust with the moving. It’s the one thing you don’t see outwardly, is the business growth.”

But immediately, Pagenaud said he already loves his new city.

“Life is great in Charlotte,” he said. “There’s a great racing community there and great weather for training.

“It’s awesome to be close to Team Penske. With such a change, it was important to be there for the professional side. You have to study and know what it will be like to be at the first race.”

Pagenaud has brought his longtime engineer Ben Bretzman with him, and the pair should be a potent threat together out of the box in the No. 22 Verizon Chevrolet.

The innate knowledge the two have with each other should ease the transition process for both of them.

“We don’t have much testing, so the need is there to understand technically where they are at,” Pagenaud explained. “To bring Ben Bretzman with me, now the duo is back together. Team Penske hired him, and that makes things easier.

“The first move to Penske is huge. Having the resources, and everything behind that, we have only one option: to do well. Having the new engine and new aero kit is very cool for me.”

Pagenaud’s sports car experience – he is renowned for his development work with a series of different HPD/Acura prototypes over a five-year period from 2008 through 2012, and was also part of Peugeot’s factory lineup – should pay dividends as aero kits come to IndyCar this year.

He was part of the test lineup for Chevrolet’s model at Circuit of the Americas over the winter, but hasn’t tested the new kit since. He did well with Bretzman in the 2014 aero-spec package at NOLA Motorsports Park last week.

“There’s been a lot of development since then even,” Pagenaud said. “The engineers have been working days and nights, but as hard as they’ve worked they must have improved a lot. It’s quite a tremendous piece of equipment.

“I’m more excited for myself as a driver! It will have more grip, downforce, and be faster. We should be quite a bit faster.”

Pagenaud will have already had two races under his belt by the time the IndyCar season opens in St. Petersburg on March 29.

He’s been added as a third driver to the No. 4 Corvette Racing Corvette C7.R at the Rolex 24 at Daytona and Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring. Pagenaud finished third at Daytona and looks to end a string of runner-up results at Sebring next month.

“It’s quite an adjustment actually,” he said of moving from a prototype to a GTLM car. “The biggest thing is the movement of the car. It moves a lot more under braking, but the C7.R is an incredible car. It surprises me how much you can attack and push it. I’m having so much fun driving it.”

More change, and yet more success, should be the expectation for Pagenaud the rest of 2015.

Winner Josef Newgarden earns $3.666 million from a record Indy 500 purse of $17 million


INDIANAPOLIS — The first Indy 500 victory for Josef Newgarden also was the richest in race history from a record 2023 purse of just more than $17 million.

The two-time NTT IndyCar Series champion, who continued his celebration Monday morning at Indianapolis Motor Speedway earned $3.666 million for winning the 107th running of the Greatest Spectacle in Racing.

The purse and winner’s share both are the largest in the history of the Indianapolis 500.

It’s the second consecutive year that the Indy 500 purse set a record after the 2022 Indy 500 became the first to crack the $16 million mark (nearly doubling the 2021 purse that offered a purse of $8,854,565 after a crowd limited to 135,000 because of the COVID-19 pandemic).

The average payout for IndyCar drivers was $500,600 (exceeding last year’s average of $485,000).

Indianapolis Motor Speedway owner Roger Penske, whose team also fields Newgarden’s No. 2 Dallara-Chevrolet, had made raising purses a priority since buying the track in 2020. But Penske but was unable to post big money purses until the race returned to full capacity grandstands last year.

The largest Indy 500 purse before this year was $14.4 million for the 2008 Indy 500 won by Scott Dixon (whose share was $2,988,065). Ericsson’s haul made him the second Indy 500 winner to top $3 million (2009 winner Helio Castroneves won $3,048,005.

Runner-up Marcus Ericsson won $1.043 million after falling short by 0.0974 seconds in the fourth-closest finish in Indy 500 history.

The 107th Indy 500 drew a crowd of at least 330,000 that was the largest since the sellout for the 100th running in 2016, and the second-largest in more than two decades, according to track officials.

“This is the greatest race in the world, and it was an especially monumental Month of May featuring packed grandstands and intense on-track action,” Penske Entertainment president and CEO Mark Miles said in a release. “Now, we have the best end card possible for the 107th Running of the Indianapolis 500: a record-breaking purse for the history books.”

Benjamin Pedersen was named the Indy 500 rookie of the year, earning a $50,000 bonus.

The race’s purse is determined through contingency and special awards from IMS and IndyCar. The awards were presented Monday night in the annual Indy 500 Victory Celebration at the JW Marriott in downtown Indianapolis.

The payouts for the 107th Indy 500:

1. Josef Newgarden, $3,666,000
2. Marcus Ericsson, $1,043,000
3. Santino Ferrucci, $481,800
4. Alex Palou, $801,500
5. Alexander Rossi, $574,000
6. Scott Dixon, $582,000
7. Takuma Sato, $217,300
8. Conor Daly, $512,000
9. Colton Herta, $506,500
10. Rinus VeeKay, $556,500
11. Ryan Hunter‐Reay, $145,500
12. Callum Ilott, $495,500
13. Devlin DeFrancesco, $482,000
14. Scott McLaughlin, $485,000
15. Helio Castroneves, $481,500
16. Tony Kanaan, $105,000
17. Marco Andretti, $102,000
18. Jack Harvey, $472,000
19. Christian Lundgaard, $467,500
20. Ed Carpenter, $102,000
21. Benjamin Pedersen (R), $215,300
22. Graham Rahal, $565,500*
23. Will Power, $488,000
24. Pato O’Ward, $516,500
25. Simon Pagenaud, $465,500
26. Agustín Canapino (R), $156,300
27. Felix Rosenqvist, $278,300
28. Kyle Kirkwood, $465,500
29. David Malukas, $462,000
30. Romain Grosjean, $462,000
31. Sting Ray Robb (R), $463,000
32. RC Enerson (R), $103,000
33.  Katherine Legge, $102,000

*–Broken down between two teams, $460,000 Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing, $105,500 Dreyer & Reinbold Racing/Cusick Motorsports