Pagenaud primed for big month of May with Team Penske

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INDIANAPOLIS – This is an important month ahead for Simon Pagenaud.

Thus far, the Frenchman and his No. 22 team at Team Penske have started to gel, and although top results have thus far eluded them, Pagenaud is happy with the early season progress through four races.

“It’s going pretty well, actually,” Pagenaud said in a teleconference last week. “Unfortunately the results don’t really show the performance. But that’s the growing pain of a new team, you know.

“On the 22 side, we have new people, people that have not worked together that now are working together. So there’s a need for transitioning, a need to understand how to optimize everybody and get the best out of everybody at each race.

“So far, I think I’m pretty satisfied with the performance. We just need to execute fully.”

Through four races, Pagenaud is one of only two drivers (teammate Helio Castroneves) with four top-five starts in as many races. But the finishes haven’t matched up, with fifth, 20th, fourth and ninth on the books thus far, and only five laps led while Will Power (75), Juan Pablo Montoya (59) and Castroneves (51) have a large amount more.

Pagenaud enters this weekend’s Angie’s List Grand Prix of Indianapolis as defending race champion.

The win came via a mix of weekend pace – Pagenaud was consistently one of the fastest cars during practice before the rain-interrupted qualifying session – and then pit strategy, when Pagenaud’s then-Schmidt Peterson Hamilton Motorsports crew ensured he had enough fuel to last the distance.

It also established him as a championship contender for the season, which he carried through to the season finale at Auto Club Speedway in August.

This weekend, now in DeVilbiss colors aboard his No. 22 car (expected to be a mix of orange and white), Pagenaud thinks he should be off to a good start.

“We already have four races behind us, and I feel a little bit like Brad (Keselowski, Team Penske NASCAR Sprint Cup driver) actually,” Pagenaud said. “I feel like going into Indy Grand Prix where we won last year is a really good opportunity for us to maybe unlock what has been going on for us.

“So the month of May is really exciting, especially with this announcement today with HP and Avaya. So it’s all very good news for us at Team Penske.”

After the car is orange and white for DeVilbiss this weekend, it will morph into red and white – more traditional Penske colors – for Avaya for the first of four races.

It was announced last week Avaya will be primary sponsor of the No. 22 car at the Indianapolis 500, Texas, Toronto and Sonoma races – the latter making big sense from a Silicon Valley/Northern California perspective.

“I really want to welcome HP and Avaya to Team Penske,” Pagenaud said. “It’s truly an honor to represent them, and be an ambassador of their brand. So it’s certainly a perfect fit. I mean communication in racing is such an important thing, especially with our schedule being so tight in the Verizon IndyCar Series.

“When we come back to the shop or on the road, we need communication to be as fast as possible and as efficient as we can make it. So it is a really, really good fit. But also the IndyCar Series is becoming so sophisticated that having the opportunity to work with Avaya is a perfect partner to Penske for this.”

IndyCar teams with NASCAR on IMS road course doubleheader in 2021

IndyCar NASCAR doubleheader 2021
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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.