Mid-Ohio podium adds to increased optimism for Simon Pagenaud


Simon Pagenaud’s evolution in his first season with Team Penske continues to move forward.

Pagenaud is coming off his second podium appearance of the 2015 season, having finished third in Sunday’s Honda Indy 200 at Mid-Ohio.

Starting near the middle of the pack (15th), the French native deftly worked his way to near the front of the field.

Pagenaud wound up behind winner Graham Rahal and runner-up Justin Wilson (who earned his first podium and best finish of 2015, far surpassing his previous season-best of 17th the week before at Iowa).

Pagenaud’s previous podium came in Belle Isle 1 on May 30, also a third-place showing.

“It was a great day for the PPG Chevy, really,” Pagenaud said after Sunday’s race. “We had the roughest weekend of all. We had some mechanical issues earlier in the weekend, and Chevy and the whole team put a new engine in the back of the car for qualifying and then it was good.”

Pagenaud has enjoyed several decent runs of late. He qualified on the pole and finished ninth at Fontana, followed by another ninth-place showing in the next race at Milwaukee. And then there’s how he did at Mid-Ohio.

After enduring two DNFs in the first five races, Pagenaud is definitely starting to make up for some of the ground he lost earlier in the season.

With two races remaining (Aug. 23 at Pocono and the season finale at Sonoma on Aug. 30), Pagenaud appears to be on-track for a top-10 finish at season’s end in the Verizon IndyCar Series point standings.

While that’s a far cry from where he’s finished each of the last three seasons – third in 2013 (included two wins) and fifth in both 2012 and 2014 (two other wins) – there is indeed reason for even more optimism going forward.

“It’s funny how it works,” Pagenaud said. “We qualified badly and then we have a podium (finish). Good day, good day for the guys, it’s uplifting. We bounced back.”

Follow @JerryBonkowski