Pagenaud still has a lot to respond to after Indy 500 win

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Simon Pagenaud still has more than 2,000 messages left from his Indianapolis 500 victory, and he plans to respond to every one of them.

Maybe next week, when the IndyCar Series takes a break.

“I’m going to catch up on all of my messages,” Pagenaud said Thursday. “I need to respond. … So that will be my time to do that.”

Pagenaud has been full-go since the May 26 win at the Brickyard with plenty of appearances, not to mention two more races at Detroit last weekend. There is still that invitation to visit the White House and maybe even an appearance at the NHL Awards later this month.

When he got to Texas, his No. 22 Penske team won a pit stop challenge on a downtown Fort Worth street before a scheduled two-hour practice session at the track Thursday night was cut short by a passing shower that was followed by an impressive double rainbow in the sky.

“I don’t even know when was Indy. It’s a bit of a blur. Detroit was a blur,” Pagenaud said. “Tiring, grueling in some ways, because you’ve still got to keep your emotion in check while you’re representing the sport. Then Detroit, we just had to go through the weekend, quite frankly, to lose the least amount of points possible. Now we’re back to business, I feel rested, I feel good.”

There was even time this week for a half day at home with his team engineer to get ready for Saturday night’s race at the 1+-mile, high-speed oval at Texas that is the midpoint of the 17-race IndyCar schedule – with eight races already completed, and then eight more races after that.

Pagenaud, who also won the Indianapolis GP last month, said the focus can now turn to the championship chase.

The Indy 500 victory pushed Pagenaud from fourth to first in points. But after finishes of sixth and 17th in the two races at Belle Isle, the 35-year-old Frenchman slipped to third in points, 25 behind Penske teammate Josef Newgarden, the only other two-time winner this season.

“I think Detroit showed how quickly it can swing, and Indy as well,” Pagenaud said. “The momentum of my team is incredible. … We got hit at the start (at Detroit), but nobody ever gave up. We had just won the biggest race in the world and you could see everybody was so eager to get back in the race. It was like a win. That’s what’s very special.”

Pagenaud finished fourth at Texas in 2016, then was third in 2017 before being the runner-up to Scott Dixon last June. The title sponsor of the Texas race is DXC Technology, also the primary sponsor for Pagenaud’s No. 22.

“Obviously, it’s more motivation to do well,” he said.

There was a short yellow flag early in the Thursday night practice because of some sprinkles. There was no resumption after the later downpour, which drenched the track and ended the session to 41 minutes of green flag time.

Dixon had the fastest speed at 219.308 mph. Pagenaud was 16th among the 22 drivers at 215.001 mph.

With a week off the track after Texas, Pagenaud plans to get on his boat and put some music on, and “just relax for a few days.” He also will catch up on some of his fitness routine after not being able to get to the gym lately.

There are also all of those messages.

“I just feel grateful and blessed for my life, so I want to make sure people understand that I’m not going to change,” he said. “Those people that sent me messages are happy for me.”

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Supercross points leader Eli Tomac finds silver linings in interruption

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Though his Monster Energy AMA Supercross championship charge was put on hold, the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic had a silver lining for Eli Tomac.

Off the road while the season was postponed for nearly three months, the points leader was able to be present as his girlfriend, Jessica, gave birth to their daughter, Lev, on April 26

“A huge blessing for us there,” Tomac told host Mike Tirico during a “Lunch Talk Live” interview (click on the video above) in which he also joked about becoming a pro at busting off diaper changes. “That was one good blessing for us as we had our daughter on a Sunday, that would have been on a travel day coming back from the race in Las Vegas.

NBCSN

“That was probably the only positive out of all this mess was being able to be there for the birth.”

But there also could be more good fortune for Tomac as the series resumes Sunday at Salt Lake City, Utah (3-4 p.m. ET on NBCSN, 4-6 p.m. on NBC).

The final seven events will be held over 22 days in Rice-Eccles Stadium, which sits at just over 4,000 feet.

The elevation could favor Tomac, who was born and lives in Colorado and is accustomed to riding and training at altitude, which is a departure for many Supercross riders (many of whom hail from California and Florida).

COVID-19 TESTING REQUIRED: Supercross outlines protocols for last seven races

“That’s going to be the test for us,” said the Kawasaki rider, who five of the first 10 races this season. “We’re at elevation in Salt Lake, so when you’re on a motorcycle, you have a little bit of a loss of power. That’s just what happens when you come up in elevation. And a lot of guys train at sea level, and we’re at 4,000 to 5,000 feet, so cardio-wise, we’ll be pushed to the limit.

“Most of our races are Saturday nights and back to back weeks, but this go around it’s Sunday and Wednesday, so recovery is going to be key.”

Supercross will race Sunday and Wednesday for the next three weeks, capping the season with the June 21 finale, which also will be shown on NBCSN from 3-4:30 p.m. ET and NBC from 4:30-6 p.m. ET.

Tomac, who holds a three-point lead over Ken Roczen (who also recently visited “Lunch Talk Live”), told Tirico he had been riding for 90 minutes Thursday morning on a track outside Salt Lake City.

“Most of us we can rely on our past riding pretty well,” Tomac said. “The question is if you can go the distance. That’s what a lot of guys have to train on is going the distance. We go 20 minutes plus a lap. That’s what you’ve got to keep sharp is your general muscles. Within two to three days, your brain starts warming up more if you take a few weeks off the motorcycle.”

Here is the schedule and TV information for the rest of the season:

  • Sunday, May 31 (3-4 p.m. ET, NBCSN; 4-6 p.m. ET, NBC);
  • Wednesday, June 3 ( 10:00 pm – 1:00 am ET, NBCSN);
  • Sunday, June 7 (5-8:00 p.m. ET, NBCSN);
  • Wednesday, June 10 (7–10 p.m. ET, NBCSN);
  • Sunday, June 14 (7-10 p.m. ET, NBCSN);
  • Wednesday, June 17 (7-10 p.m. ET, NBCSN);
  • Sunday, June 21 (3-4:30 p.m. ET, NBCSN; 4:30 – 6:00 p.m. ET, NBC).
Eli Tomac rides his No. 3 Kawasaki in the Feb. 29 race at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta, Georgia (Charles Mitchell/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images).