Curiosity, experimentation lead to Simon Pagenaud’s first podium with Penske


Simon Pagenaud had just been told to come into the pits by his crew when the Frenchman got lucky.

The skies opened up.

Pagenaud was running his No. 22 PPG Chevrolet in third in Dual in Detroit race one, behind Marco Andretti and leader Carlos Munoz, when rain fell on the Raceway on Belle Isle for the second time Sunday.

But this time there was lightning.

Pagenaud convinced his crew that he should stay out and on Lap 46, IndyCar threw the caution flag and eventually the red. Once the race was called, Pagenaud had his first podium finish since joining Team Penske for the 2015 season.

“I don’t care, I’m just going to take it,” Pagenaud told ABC. “It’s my first podium with Team Penske. I’m over the moon right now. We haven’t had much luck this year.”

The podium’s significance carries more weight after Pagenaud’s result in last week’s Indianapolis 500. He had led 35 laps and was in the top five when his car suffered a malfunction around Lap 176 and dropped him like a rock through the field.

He would recover to finish 10th. Now he becomes the final Penske driver to score a podium finish in 2015.

It just took some curiosity and experimentation on a rain-soaked track.

“I really love these conditions and I wanted to stay longer on track as the rain was coming down,” Pagenaud said. “With these conditions, you can gain two seconds per lap sometimes compared to someone else being on rain tires.”

Pagenaud had started fifth on the grid, which began with the field having to navigate a 2.35-mile, 14-turn temporary street course that was fresh from an earlier dumping of rain.

“I was trying to find lines and experimenting. When it gets wet like this, you want to cross the dry line as much as possible and put the power down on a very different line,” Pagenaud said.

“So sometimes on the inside of a corner that’s where the grip can be and that’s where sometimes you have to run. In the rain, you have to be curious, you have to experience things and yeah, it was different in every corner.”

Eventually, the track dried and teams were able to rely on normal tires instead of those specifically designed for rain. But everyone knew it was a matter of when, not if, the rain would return. Pagenaud’s could do nothing but look at the radar on their pit box.

With the danger of rain, Munoz took a few chances, which included edging passed Pagenaud on his inside, which caused him to narrowly miss hitting the wall on his outside as Munoz completed the pass.

“I think it was ok. It was just difficult to get (cold tires going) and Carlos was going for it and there wasn’t much room for the two of us there,” Pagenaud said. “I just gave up the position thinking it was going to rain and that everything was going to happen later. It was a smart race on my side today.”

IndyCar releases schedule for 2023 season

IndyCar schedule 2023
Douglas Stringer/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The NTT IndyCar Series’ 2023 schedule will feature the same number of races and tracks as this season with some minor reshuffling of dates.

IndyCar will open the 2023 season March 5 on the streets of St. Petersburg, Florida, and will conclude Sept. 10 at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca in Monterey, California. The 107th Indy 500 will take place May 28 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

The 17-race schedule will conclude with a stretch of eight races in the final nine weeks.

“The NTT IndyCar Series is on an impactful upward trajectory, making progress at a pace that befits our thrilling style of competition,” Penske Entertainment Corp. president and CEO Mark Miles said in a release. “The 2023 season provides an opportunity to further build on this trend, bringing our sport and its stars to more markets and households and reaching new consumers across the globe.”

There will be 15 events on NBC: 13 races (including six of the final seven) plus Indy 500 qualifying May 20-21. There also are three races on USA Network and the Toronto race exclusively on Peacock. All races on NBC and USA also will have live simulstreams on Peacock.

In partnership with NBC Sports, the 2022 IndyCar season was the most-watched in six years and the most-watched across NBC Sports on record. The 2022 season also was the most streamed season on record.

“We’re very excited for our 2023 NTT IndyCar Series schedule and to build on this past season’s viewership milestones,” NBC Sports vice president of programming Mike Perman said in a release. “In providing comprehensive coverage across NBC, Peacock and USA Network, NBC Sports is once again looking forward to telling the stories of these world-class drivers and this compelling series.”

Notable elements on the 2023 schedule:

–There will be the same balance of seven road course races, five street courses and five ovals.

–St. Pete will be the season opener for the 13th time.

–The Chevrolet Detroit Grand Prix will move from Belle Isle to the streets of downtown.

–The NASCAR doubleheader weekend at the IMS road course will shift to mid-August.

–The World Wide Technology Raceway event will move from Saturday to Sunday.

Start times for the 2023 events will be announced at a later date.

Here’s the 2023 IndyCar schedule:

Date Race/Track Network/Platform
Sun., March 5 Streets of St. Petersburg NBC, Peacock
Sun., April 2 Texas Motor Speedway NBC, Peacock
Sun., April 16 Streets of Long Beach NBC, Peacock
Sun., April 30 Barber Motorsports Park NBC, Peacock
Sat., May 13 Indianapolis Motor Speedway (Road Course) NBC, Peacock
Sun., May 28 The 107th Indianapolis 500 NBC, Peacock
Sun., June 4 Streets of Detroit NBC, Peacock
Sun., June 18 Road America USA Network, Peacock
Sun., July 2 Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course USA Network, Peacock
Sun., July 16 Streets of Toronto Peacock
Sat., July 22 Iowa Speedway – Race 1 NBC, Peacock
Sun., July 23 Iowa Speedway – Race 2 NBC, Peacock
Sun., Aug. 6 Streets of Nashville NBC, Peacock
Sat., Aug. 12 Indianapolis Motor Speedway (Road Course) USA Network, Peacock
Sun., Aug. 27 World Wide Technology Raceway NBC, Peacock
Sun., Sept. 3 Portland International Raceway NBC, Peacock
Sun., Sept. 10 WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca NBC, Peacock

*dates and networks/platforms are subject to change