Indy 500 winner Pagenaud switches gears to Detroit

INDYCAR Photo by Chris Owen
INDYCAR Photo by Chris Owen
1 Comment

DETROIT – It was a cold, overcast Thursday, but Simon Pagenaud was “Mr. Sunshine.”

The winner of the 103rdIndianapolis 500 was still living on adrenalin from the biggest victory of his career and going from one personal appearance to the next in advance of this weekend’s Chevrolet Grand Prix of Detroit.

It’s been a busy week for the first driver from France to win the Indianapolis 500 since Rene Thomas in 1914, but this is what a racing driver lives for.

Bruce Martin Photo“I’ve had six hours of sleep in the last 48 hours, but I don’t care, I can sleep later,” Smiling Simon told NBC Sports.com Thursday as he was about to give Pace Car rides around the temporary street course at Belle Isle to Chevrolet guests on Thursday. “I don’t feel tired at all. After the race, I didn’t feel human. But I got my sleep the last two nights so I’m ready to go.”

Pagenaud must switch gears from the biggest race of the year on the massive 2.5-mile Indianapolis Motor Speedway oval to a tight, demanding 2.35-mile, 14-turn temporary street course on an island in the middle of the Detroit River.

On top of that, it’s two races in one week with 70-lap contests on both Saturday and Sunday.

And, it’s the “Boss’s Track” as Pagenaud’s team owner Roger Penske is the track promoter of the Chevrolet Grand Prix of Detroit.

“It’s pretty simple – we’re racers and all we want to do is set next challenges and next goals,” Pagenaud told NBC Sports.com. “I’m ready. I feel so energized. I’ve never felt so much energy in my life.

“Obviously winning carries, me with a lot of momentum. Now, I’m focused on Detroit. It’s a big race for us at Team Penske.

“I won my first IndyCar Series race at Detroit (in 2013); I’d like to add to those numbers.”

Pagenaud scored his first career victory at Detroit when he was with Schmidt-Hamilton Motorsports in 2013. That team is now Arrow Schmidt-Peterson Motorsports. He moved over to Team Penske in 2015 and has a second-place finish here in 2016 and a fifth-place in 2017.

The Indy 500 winner has won at Detroit in the same season just one time. That was Helio Castroneves in 2001.

There are plenty of past Indy 500 winners that have won at Detroit, including Bobby Rahal, Danny Sullivan, Dario Franchitti, Tony Kanaan, Scott Dixon, Will Power and Ryan Hunter-Reay, but never in the same season they won the Indy 500.

When Castroneves won Detroit after the Indy 500 in 2001, it was preceded by a race at the Milwaukee Mile short oval the week after Indianapolis.

“I would like to be the first and add numbers again,” Pagenaud said. “This is a fun track. I really enjoy it. This is a very physical weekend. I think that is an advantage for us.

“It is a grueling media tour after the Indy 500, and you go through so much emotion. Some may have struggled through the task at hand. I don’t feel that way at all. I want to get in the race car and have some fun.”

Pagenaud’s whirlwind started after taking the checkered flag in the Indy 500 last Sunday. He was honored at the annual Indy 500 Victory Awards Ceremony at the JW Marriott in Indianapolis Monday night, then flew to New York after it was over.

Tuesday began with a media appearance at 6:45 a.m. and concluded at 11 p.m. that night.

“It was awesome to be welcomed as the Indianapolis 500 winner,” Pagenaud said. “We got to the go to the Empire State Building and saw the set of Jimmy Fallon and also the set for Saturday Night Live on NBC.

“That was very cool as well.

“I was surprised that people knew about me in New York. The most memorable moment, though, was talking to President Trump.”

Because of severe weather on the East Coast, he was unable to get to Texas for another day of media appearances for Texas Motor Speedway on Wednesday.

He arrived in Detroit Thursday morning, attending the annual Detroit Grand Prix Media Luncheon followed by appearances for Chevrolet.

On Friday, Pagenaud strapped himself back in his No. 22 Chevrolet for the first practice for this weekend’s doubleheader.

He also switched into “race driver mode” as he described the challenges of Detroit.

“There are passing opportunities into Turn 3 and Turn 7,” Pagenaud explained. “It’s a good track for the show. It’s grueling for everybody. It’s bumpy. You have to be on top of your game, here.”

It’s been said winning the Indianapolis 500 changes the life of the winner. Pagenaud may discover that over time.

For now, however, He is enjoying the ride and the next stop is Detroit.

“I’m the same guy,” Pagenaud said. “I’ve won the biggest race in the world and that is a huge accomplishment for my name, my family name and my generation to come.

“This is satisfaction, but back to business this week.

“I want to keep rolling. I’m Detroit right now. I want to get going. I love driving and I want to feel those limits. I’ve set myself a new goal and that is to win the championships this year.”

SIMON PAGENAUD’S SCHEDULE SINCE WINNING THE 103RD INDIANAPOLIS 500 ON MAY 26

Sunday:

NBC broadcast sign-off

ESPN SportsCenter

Local and regional TV affiliates

BAND TV

SMT: WDIV Detroit, L’Auto Journal, Radio Europe 1, KCWI Des Moines, KCRA Sacramento, KPIX San Francisco, CNNi, FOX 19 Cincinnati, WGCL Atlanta, WSYX Columbus, WLW Radio Cincinnati, WBNS Columbus, WLWT Cincinnati, NBC 5 Nashville, FOX Sports Radio, France TV, Canal +

Racer Magazine photo shoot

Monday:

NBCSports.com

The Ride with JMV – 1070 The Fan Indy

RACER.com interview

SiriusXM NASCAR Radio “The Morning Drive”

Borg-Warner Photo Shoot

Jostens Photo Shoot

Champion’s Photo Shoot on Yard of Bricks

Morning after press conference

Scrum with French media following press conference

Honda INDYCAR Race Report

Forbes.com

Road and Track

Sirius XM “The Real Spin”

For The Win

Dan Dakich Show – 1070 The Fan

Query and Schultz

Speed City Radio

Detroit News

Victory Celebration Red Carpet

Tuesday (New York):

610 The Fan Charlotte – Mac Attack

Good Day New York

NASDAQ Opening Bell (picked up by Bloomberg, BNN, CNBC, FOX Business)

Empire State Building photo opp: New York Times, FOX Sports, NHL Celebrity Wrap, AP TV, Agence France-Presse (AFP), KCS Presse, SSNEWSIMAGES,  SIPA USA, UPI

Reuters

SI Now

Sports Illustrated social media

Sports Illustrated photo shoot

Road and Track

WNBC New York

6th Annual “Toast on Top” Party: ABC News One, AFP, Adweek, Blomberg, Consumer Report, Forbes, Fox Sports (.com and First Things First), Front Office Sports, Good Day New York, Hearst Auto, Fast Company/Inc, New York Times, New York Post/Page Six, Reuters, Road and Track, Sports Illustrated, UEG Worldwide, USA TODAY, CNBC, FOX Business, FOX News, Wall Street Journal, SiriusXM, CNN Business, CBS This Morning, ABC News, Women’s Wear Daily, Bloomberg TV (Partners in attendance: Gainbridge, SiriusXM, BHV, NBC, Crown Royal, Firestone)

Wednesday (over the phone – weather prevented him from getting to DFW):

RPM Radio (Austin)

TrackSmack Radio

SiriusXM Radio “From Press Box to Press Row”

WWLS Sports Animal (OK City)

Texas Motor Speedway “No Limits” podcast

French Morning

Thursday:

Detroit media luncheon

Max Verstappen, Sergio Perez and Formula One embrace the United States

Verstappen Perez United States
Jared C. Tilton / Getty Images
0 Comments

Last week, Red Bull Racing revealed their new car, the RB19, and a new relationship with US-based Ford Motors in a press event in New York City complete with drivers Max Verstappen, Sergio Perez and Team Principle Christian Horner. They are the only Formula 1 team to launch in the United States, but even that small move of the needle reflects a major shift in the attitude of both F1’s management and their teams – and the extent to which the American audience has fully embraced the sport.

“It’s something fantastic and unique, for the sport to be able to break it into the U.S,” Perez told NBC Sports. “The market is huge and it’s a huge opportunity for everyone involved, for the drivers, for the team. It’s always a huge market.”

Verstappen Perez United States
Sergio Perez finished fourth in the Unites States Grand Prix, but he was first with the fans.  – Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images

In 2023, Formula 1 will race three times in the United States and five times in North America. The Circuit of the Americas will host their 11th consecutive race in October before heading south to Mexico City. Miami returns for a second time in May on a temporary street course around the Hard Rock cafe and the third addition is in downtown Las Vegas in November.

With the Canadian Grand Prix on the schedule for June and the Brazilian Grand Prix in November, American fans are now in the ballpark of Europeans, who have eight events on the continent and one in England.

In 2022, Verstappen won every race in North America. He was kept from sweeping the hemisphere only by George Russell, who won in Brazil. That fact is less remarkable when one considers that Verstappen won 15 times in the season – nearly two-thirds of the races on the schedule.

By the time Formula arrived in Austin for Round 20 of 23, Verstappen had already wrapped up his second consecutive championship.

“Sometimes it can be hard to replicate the season, but I think it’s the same as with the car, right? You always try to improve it,” Verstappen told NBC Sports. “And I always look at the little details that even when you have had a good race, you could have done better. And then of course you also learn from the bad races. So we always try to look for these little improvements and general experience you gain year after year.

“You try to do better, but of course it also depends a lot on the package you have.”

Verstappen Perez United States
Max Verstappen United States Grand Prix win was one of 15 for the drivers and 17 for Red Bull.
(Gongora / NurPhoto via Getty Images)

Now Verstappen’s thoughts will inevitably turn to establishing a dynasty – and America will again play a pivotal role.

“I just enjoy what I’m doing,” Verstappen said.  “After the years in Formula One, when you have to be on top of your game and you gain a lot on your experience – in that sense nothing really can get to you anymore. Every year you just try to do the best you can. But a lot depends on the material around you. It’s always a bit of a guess. Start the season as fit as you can be and be well prepared. But if you don’t have the car, you’re not going to win the championship.”

Perez added two wins to Red Bull’s total, at Monaco and the Marina Bay Street course. With two of the US 2023 races on street courses, Perez hopes to close the gap on Verstappen and potentially be his principle rival for the championship.

“The strategy is clear; it is to maximize the potential of the car – and we believe we have a good car, but how good?,” Perez said “We don’t know what the competition is doing. We just give our best in building this car and we hope that it’s good enough to get us to win races.

“I think we have to work together as a team. At the same time. We both want to win the championship. It’s just having good compromise. The competition will be really strong out there, so we really need everything we possibly can get from each other.”

Formula One returns to the United States for Round 6 and the Miami Grand Prix on May 7.