Roger Penske says Simon Pagenaud ‘absolutely’ back with team next year

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INDIANAPOLIS – Speculating on Simon Pagenaud’s future has been an enticing parlor game in the NTT IndyCar series this season, but an Indianapolis 500 win finally might have quashed the conjecture.

Sunday’s victory was the record 18th in the Indy 500 for team owner Roger Penske, who tends to keep around drivers who deliver a checkered flag at the Brickyard.

So did it ensure that Pagenaud would return to Team Penske next season?

“What do you think?” Penske said with a broad smile. “Absolutely!”

FULL INDIANAPOLIS 500 COVERAGE: All of NBCSports.com’s 2019 stories over two weeks in May at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. 

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.”

Final 2023 Rolex 24 at Daytona results, stats

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DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. — The 2023 Rolex 24 at Daytona overall results were all streaks: two consecutive victories in the endurance classic for Meyer Shank Racing and three in a row for Acura.

And Helio Castroneves became the second driver to win three consecutive Rolex 24s and the first to win in three straight years (Peter Gregg won in 1973, ’75 and ’76; the race wasn’t held in ’74 because of a global oil crisis).

Starting from the pole position, Tom Blomqvist took the checkered flag in the No. 60 ARX-06 that led a race-high 365 of 783 laps with co-drivers Castroneves, Simon Pagenaud and Colin Braun.

RESULTS: Click here for the finishing order in the 61st Rolex 24 at Daytona l By class

Meyer Shank Racing now has two Rolex 24 victories and the 2022 championship since entering the premier prototype category of the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship in 2021.

“I think what’s so special about this team is we are a small team compared to some of our opponents, but the atmosphere, the way we work, enables people to get the best out of themselves, and I think that’s why we’re such high achievers,” Blomqvist said. “I think there’s no egos. It’s a very open book, and that just enables each and every one of us to reach our potential. I think that’s why we’ve achieved so much success in really a short time at this level of competition.”

It’s the 16th IMSA victory for MSR.

The 61st running of the Rolex 24 at Daytona marked the debut of the Grand Touring Prototype category that brought hybrid engine technology to IMSA’s top level.

In other categories:

LMP2: James Allen passed Ben Hanley on the final lap and delivered a victory in the No. 55 ORECA by 0.016 seconds. It’s the second IMSA victory for Proton Competition, which last won at Sebring in 2012. It was the first Rolex 24 victory for Allen and co-drivers Gianmaria Bruni, Fred Poordad and Francesco Pizzi.

GTD Pro: Cooper MacNeil won in the last start of his IMSA career as the No. 79 Mercedes-AMG GT3 scored the first Rolex 24 at Daytona for WeatherTech Racing and the team’s fourth career victory.

MacNeil, who co-drove with Maro Engel, Jules Gounon and Daniel Juncadella, earned his 12th career victory and first at the Rolex 24.

“Winning by last IMSA race is tremendous,” MacNeil said.

GTD: The No. 27 Heart of Racing Team delivered the first Rolex 24 at Daytona for Aston Martin, which has been competing in endurance races at Daytona International Speedway since 1964. Drivers Marco Sorensen, Roman De Angelis, Darren Turner and Ian James (also the team principal) earned the victory in the English brand’s 13th attempt.

It’s also the first Rolex 24 at Daytona win for Heart of Racing, which has seven IMSA wins.

LMP3: Anthony Mantella, Wayne Boyd, Nico Varrone and Thomas Merrill drove the No. 17 AWA Duqueine D08 to victory by 12 laps for the team’s first class win in IMSA.


STATS PACKAGE FOR ROLEX 24 HOURS OF DAYTONA:

Fastest laps by driver

Fastest laps by driver after race (over the weekend)

Fastest laps by driver and class after race

Fastest lap sequence

Lap chart

Leader sequence

Race analysis by lap

Stint analysis

Time cards

Pit stop time cards

Best sector times

Race distance and speed average

Flag analysis

Weather report

NEXT: The 2023 IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship season will resume with the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring March 18 with coverage across NBC, USA and Peacock.