Pagenaud cemented his dominant May at Indianapolis Motor Speedway by leading a race-high 116 of 200 laps and outdueling runner-up Alexander Rossi in a thrilling finish.
It came on the heels of the No. 22 Dallara-Chevrolet driver capturing the pole position at the Brickyard last weekend and making a furious charge through the rain to beat Scott Dixon in the IndyCar Grand Prix on IMS’ road course two weeks ago.
Pagenaud has been coy about his contract beyond 2019. When asked after his win Sunday by NBC Sports’ Marty Snider about if the questions about his job security had motivated him, he said, “It didn’t. I’m just focused on the job, man. When you a car like this, a team like this, you just work your way.”
After a winless 2018, Pagenaud has two consecutive victories and the series points lead. Penske was asked whether the 2016 series champion’s ride had been jeopardy without raising his performance this season.
“I don’t think that I said anything to the media about Simon,” Penske said. “He’s on our team. He’s one of our drivers. You’ve seen that. That was scuttlebutt. I think that’s a good word for it.
“But what he did this month, certainly he achieved records in his own personal life and certainly what he had expected to, and the run today, it’s a history book run for me when we think about some of the races — an opportunity to be in the winner’s circle, so he did a great job.”
Chief strategist Kyle Moyer said Pagenaud’s May was reflective of the expectation for any driver at Team Penske, which has 18 Indy 500 wins, including two in a row and three of the past five.
“Team Penske has always been winners, that’s why I came here, that’s why Simon is here, so you’re expected to win,” Moyer said. “So when you’re not, you’ve got to figure out a way to do it. Simon has done that. I think in this month he’s actually forced it on you to show you that he can win. Like I told you a month ago, I said, if he wins one, there’s no reason he can’t win five in a row, because he’s that type of driver once he gets the confidence built.”
IndyCar’s Scott Dixon staying fit with new training regimen during layoff
During a regular racing schedule, five-time NTT IndyCar Series champion Scott Dixon of Chip Ganassi Racing would spend much of his time between races at PitFit in Indianapolis.
The highly advanced workout facility on the northwest side of Indianapolis is run by noted sports trainer Jim Leo. His clientele includes IndyCar Series drivers and other athletes in the area.
In addition to the array of workout machines, Leo’s facility also has advanced equipment to test a driver’s reaction time. These range from a board with lights that rapidly flash, and a driver has to hit the board to turn them off. There are other tests drivers do to keep their skills sharp and reaction time focused.
His reaction time is being tested by his wife, Emma, throwing a tennis ball at him, changing the direction with each toss.
“I’ve gone back to old school, like tennis balls and Emma can drop them or throw them,” Dixon told NBCSports.com. “As long as you keep up with basic cardio and lift weights and work on the neck muscles, that’s the harder part to get ready for.
“I had already stopped going into Pit Fit last week. We had not been doing that for a while. Haven’t left the house for 13 days, now. We went to the grocery store once. The rest of the stuff has been delivered.
“We’re locked down, man, trying to do our best for everyone else.”
Dixon’s home has an impressive array of workout equipment. That allows the 39-year-old racing legend to stay fit during this extended time off that won’t end until the last week of May at the earliest.
“I have most of the stuff I need at home,” Dixon explained. “Some of the reaction stuff, the D-2s and Synaptic machines plus some of the upper-body machines, are pretty unique machines. Those are the machines that Jim Leo has at PitFit.
“As far as cycling, running, general weights, skiers and rollers, I have that at home.”
It seems like a lifetime ago when the world was normal. That was before the dreaded novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic literally sent society underground and locked in while awaiting a solution to this fatal virus.
Before this unexpected shutdown, Dixon would go into PitFit to work on specialized equipment on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. He would do the rest of his physical workout at home.
“I started skipping that when we got home before the lockdown,” Dixon said. “Before the lockdown, Jim could have stayed open because he never has more than 10 people at once.
“Typically, he would have the drivers spaced out where Tony Kanaan and I would go in at 8 in the morning, and Alexander Rossi and James Hinchcliffe would go in at 9:30, and then Zach Veach and Spencer Pigot and Charlie Kimball would go in around 11. There were only about five of us going in at once.”
Two weeks ago, Leo dropped off some equipment at Dixon’s house along with more instructions to focus on his workouts during the layoff.
Sacrifices are being made all throughout the world, including racing.
“You can’t be selfish,” Dixon said. “It sucks for the drivers, but it sucks a lot worse for a lot of other people. Luckily, the school the girls go to has e-learning. It’s school as usual on the computer from 8:30 to 3 and that has been seamless on that front.
“On a personal note, it’s nice to be home with the baby and bonding as well, and that is great. But all of us wish everything was back to normal as soon as possible.”
Dixon is the father of three, including young daughters Poppy (10), Tilly (8) and infant son, Kit.
This is a time to keep his family safe.
“You hear mixed messages about who is more at risk,” Dixon said. “Obviously, older people with underlying conditions. We’re a fairly healthy family, but still it sounds like something can trigger a pretty bad situation. It’s better to be safe than sorry so we are limiting our contact as fast as possible. The quicker everybody locks down, the quicker we will get through the situation. If we stay home, we will see a decline and hopefully get back to normal pretty quickly.
“It’s a new thing for everybody.”
For now, Dixon works out at home, while the girls continue their classes on the computer. Emma spends time with her infant son, Kit, while taking care of the family.
These days of working out at home will be important because once racing is scheduled to return, tentatively set for May 30 at Detroit, it will be flat-out, racing nearly every weekend.
“No, but everybody is having plenty of rest right now,” Dixon quipped. “It’s not what anybody wants. We all keep hoping everybody remains safe and healthy. It’s a difficult time for a lot of people and we’ve been very lucky that we don’t know anybody that has had an issue so far. Hopefully, that remains the same.
“Everybody is ready to go. We were ready to go at St. Pete. This will be welcomed greatly.
“Nothing is normal these days. I think what IndyCar and IMS did was probably the best of the situations. You never want to move the dates of the 500, but you always want the people to be relaxed enough they are going to come to the race, too.
“The way they have done the schedule is pretty cool. It gives them enough wiggle room now with Detroit being the kickoff. What is also fun is the July 4 doubleheader weekend at Indianapolis and St. Pete finishing the season.”
Once life returns to normal, depending on what the new normal will look like, race drivers and athletes will once again be in an area they know.
The difficult part of this, however, is nobody knows when the COVID-19 outbreak will end.
“The hard part right now is there are so many unknowns,” Dixon said. “That is what people hate. They could wrap their hands around two weeks, but it could be another six weeks. People will go crazy.
“That is what we are going through right now. The unknown. Nobody knows what the next step is.”
That is why Dixon has a message for all race fans to take these orders seriously.
“Stay safe. Stay away from people. Lock down. Get this period done with,” Dixon said. “Once we do that, hopefully we can crack on like normal, and people can find fixes and therapies. As soon as everybody bunkers down, we will get through this sooner instead of later.
“Let’s get back to normal as quick as possible and get back to racing when we can.”