When you sign on to race for Roger Penske, everyone expects greatness or something resembling it to follow.
While he showed early flashes of the driver that won four races over the last two years with Schmidt Peterson Motorsports, Simon Pagenaud has yet to find victory lane or finish at the front consistently in his first season driving the No. 22 for Team Penske.
IndyCar travels to Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course for a race Sunday that sees Pagenaud in search of his second podium of the season and his fourth top-five, the last coming in a rain-shortened Detroit race one back in May.
“I’ve been fortunate to have some really good runs at Mid-Ohio in my career, whether it was in the Verizon IndyCar Series or in sports car competition,” Pagenaud said in a release.
“While I’ve won in sports cars at the circuit, I’ve been agonizingly close to winning in IndyCar with a couple of podium finishes.”
Those finishes were third in 2012 and second in 2013, when he led 14 laps before Charlie Kimball took the win.
“It’s clicked pretty well. If you look at my qualifying records so far, it’s the best it has ever been in my IndyCar career,” Pagenaud told the Mansfield News-Journal. The Frenchman has one pole and has started in the top five 11 times in 13 races.
Compare this to 2014 when he started in the top five just six times with one pole (Indianapolis Grand Prix).
“This gives me a great level of confidence for the weekend. Ben (Bretzman, engineer) and I have worked to develop a good package for Mid-Ohio and we’ve been competitive on the road courses throughout the year.”
In fact, all of Pagenaud’s top-five finishes in 2015 have been at road courses (St. Petersburg, Long Beach and Belle Isle).
But Pagenaud is still 10th in the points while his teammates Juan Pablo Montoya, Will Power and Helio Castroneves all sit in the top five. The last time Pagenaud led laps was at Fontana with three, but his last time to dominate a stretch of a race were 59 of the first 70 laps at Texas in June before he faded to finish 11th.
“All I care about is we’re working well as a team,” Pagenaud told the News-Journal. “We are building up a new team. Most of the people on my crew were not working together in the past or not even working at Penske before. It’s going to take its natural course. Everybody has to be patient, but when it will click it should be pretty good.”