Pagenaud’s back “almost 100 percent” ahead of Pocono

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Verizon IndyCar Series points leader Simon Pagenaud said missing the most recent round at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course was never in doubt owing to a back problem that arose going into the weekend, and that heading into Pocono Raceway this weekend, he should be 100 percent.

What followed at Mid-Ohio was a virtuoso performance – Pagenaud won the pole and the race, with his fourth win of the season coming after an incredible pass of Will Power for second (net lead) on Lap 66 through Turns 12 and 13 at the track that’s notoriously tough to pass on.

“It’s good. I’m almost 100 percent. I would be 100 percent on the race weekend,” Pagenaud told NBC Sports.

“There’s a lot of muscle spasms. But it takes a lot of time at this level [to recover]. I had it at Mid-Ohio… and contracted it more by doing the race.”

Pagenaud’s grit and determination helped to push him through Mid-Ohio.

“There was obviously a lot of pain, but there was no doubt in my mind I’d be racing. I didn’t get to this point to give up now,” he admitted.

“I wasn’t going to hedge the issue. But the paramedics did a tremendous job helping me through. It wasn’t the most comfortable weekend! But it gave me extra motivation… it showed what I’m made of and my dedication.”

And then there was that pass. It might not be Alex Zanardi on Bryan Herta at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca 1996-level, but it ranks up there in terms of improbability.

“It was awesome, right?” Pagenaud reflected.

“I think that was a very important move at this point in the championship. Like Will said, I was pretty determined. And it’s like he did at [race two of] Detroit.

“When you’re in that position you have to take it. I had to show some authority. But Will played it really well. I thought it was great racing and it was a great, clean battle.”

Pagenaud heads to Pocono this weekend in his No. 22 Menards Team Penske Chevrolet, with a 58-point lead over his Team Penske teammate, as he continues his pursuit of his first series championship.