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.”