Soiree Margnan Photo
Soiree Margnan Photo

Indy 500 winner hailed as ‘Superhero Pagenaud’ as he unveils Borg-Warner Trophy in France

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It’s been nearly a full century since a driver from France won the biggest race in the world. When Simon Pagenaud won the 103rdIndianapolis 500 on May 26, he became the first driver from France to win the fabled event since Gaston Chevrolet in 1920.

Pagenaud’s win was cause for celebration, and on Monday, the Indy 500 victory party made it to Paris.

He became the first driver to have his image unveiled on the famed Borg-Warner Trophy outside of the United States. Pagenaud’s sterling silver likeness, about the size of an egg and sculpted by William Behrends, was unveiled for the first time at a ceremony on the rooftop terrace of Le Meridien Hotel with the famed Eiffel Tower in the background.

Paris is called the “City of Light,” and that was a perfect place to showcase the impressive beauty of the Borg-Warner Trophy.

“It shines,” Pagenaud told NBCSports.com in a telephone interview Monday. “It’s on a rooftop in Paris, and it shines. People were mesmerized.

“To see my face on the trophy, it’s phenomenal. I’m looking at the trophy right now, and it’s next to the Eiffel Tower.

“It’s picture perfect.”

Pagenaud has earned a new nickname in France since Indy.

“They call me ‘Pagenaud Superhero’ in the headlines, and that’s pretty special to see that,” Pagenaud said. “I don’t want to sound pretentious, because that is not who I am, but it’s special to read things like that and be recognized in your home country. It’s very emotional.

“Again, I’m very grateful. It means a lot to be the first driver outside of the United States to have this unveiled in another country. I don’t want to take anything away from the U.S. It’s my country. I live there, and I love the U.S. I would not have the career I’ve had without the U.S.

Soiree Margnan Photo“Getting the recognition in France is phenomenal for me. It allows me to reflect in what I have accomplished by traveling the world with this win. I want to emphasize how grateful I am to BorgWarner for allowing me to realize a dream as a kid, which was to bring the trophy here to France. It comes from the heart. I feel grateful and thankful that I can bring awareness of our sport, which I believe is the best series in racing.”

The next stop for Pagenaud will be a trip to his hometown. The 35-year-old will travel Thursday to his home state of Vienne and unveil the trophy with a reception involving people who have helped him throughout his career. From there, it’s off to his hometown of Montmorillon.

BorgWarner made 1,000 T-shirts for townspeople attending the event.

“Going back to my hometown with the Borg-Warner Trophy, that’s going to be a very special moment,” Pagenaud said. “I’m so proud of where I’m at, at the moment, so proud of representing the Indianapolis 500, BorgWarner and France.

“The Leigh Diffey of France, Julien Febreau, the commentator on the Formula One races, will come to my hometown to present a great show we put together highlighting the Indy 500. Tonight in Paris was already emotional. I managed to manage.

“The words in French were difficult for me to come out because I had more emotion, and it’s a language, I speak less than English now. My natural go-to language for racing is English.

“I’m sure my French will fully come back by the end of the media tour.”

The Team Penske driver’s trip home also included a stop at the Hungarian Grand Prix in Hungaroring on Sunday. He began Monday’s activities in France at 4 a.m. He was still conducting interviews at 10 p.m.

His trip to the Formula One event in Hungary was arranged by Renault F1.

“I was received like an absolute king there,” Pagenaud said. “It was really great. The food was fantastic, and the car was phenomenal to see up close. I’m also friends with some of the Honda F1 people from when I worked at Red Bull. I got to see Pierre Gasly and Daniel Ricciardo, who I spent quite a bit of time with. We talked about Will Power, which was funny.”

He also got to chat with F1 drivers Nico Hulkenberg, Charles Leclerc and Sebastian Vettel.

“Vettel really liked my ring,” Pagenaud said, referring to his Indy 500 winner’s ring. “I told him to come over and get one. We’ll see if takes the advice.

“Overall, it was overwhelming to see the reaction and impact the Indy 500 has, even in the Formula One world. It is definitely the biggest race in the world, and I could tell.”

Typically, the winning driver of the Indianapolis 500 has his face on the Borg-Warner Trophy unveiled after the season, usually in December at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Museum before the start of the Performance Racing Industry (PRI) Show.

This year, sculptor William Behrends’ process of making the face that is ultimately a sterling silver image attached to the trophy was sped up so the French-born driver could unveil it in front of his adoring fans in France.

He is the fifth driver from France to win the Indianapolis 500.

“Personally, it’s a huge honor to present it in France,” Pagenaud said. “I’m glad and excited to bring some awareness to the biggest race in the world in France.

“It was very emotional to me. For some reason, speaking in my native language brings a lot more emotion.”

Pagenaud said those who saw the Borg-Warner Trophy for the first time were shocked by its size, how realistic the face looks and its value.

The man behind taking the Borg-Warner Trophy on the road for Monday’s unveiling is Fred Lissalde, President and CEO, BorgWarner, Inc. Lissalde is also from France.

This won’t be the end of the celebration for Pagenaud, however. At a later date, he will get the “Baby Borg” Trophy, a smaller version of the Borg-Warner Trophy that Pagenaud will get to keep.

Before that, however, Pagenaud still has a championship to try to win. He is currently third in the NTT IndyCar Series standings with four races remaining, beginning with the Aug. 18 ABC Supply 500 at Pocono Raceway.

“Just before I left the United States, I made sure my race engineer, Ben Bretzman, and I were on the same page,” Pagenaud said. “We prepared the setup for Pocono, so we already know where we are going. I took time to study tapes of Pocono. As soon as we are done on Thursday, I will focus on Pocono, and that gives me a whole week to think about it and get ready.

“I’ve been training to make sure I stay in shape. This is the strongest I’ve ever been.

“All of this continues to give me energy and such a positive attitude. It gives me confidence that I’ve always needed, and as you can see lately, I’ve risen to the top.

“I have no question that when we do go to Pocono, we’ll be fighting for it.”

INDYCAR: what drivers said after Pocono

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Here’s what drivers said after Sunday’s 14th race on the 2019 NTT IndyCar Series schedule – the ABC Supply 500 at Pocono Raceway:

WILL POWER (No. 12 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet) – WINNER: “I had a few issues during the race but we just kept coming back. Full credit to the team. We had a great car and we just kind of hung there and saved fuel and when it was time to go, I went. I was so determined and I really wanted to win. This is my 13th year in a row of winning races and I have been thinking about that. I just wanted to win a race for Verizon and these guys who have worked their butts off all year and just haven’t had the results.”

SCOTT DIXON (No. 9 PNC Bank Chip Ganassi Racing Honda) – finished second: “Definitely gets exciting in that situation. We definitely had some luck. Today the car went through some good changes. The car was pretty quick.  Not sure really what happened on the last stint there. We put more front wing in there, more pressure on the right rear tire. Couldn’t turn the car. We were running 213, 214 (mph), struggling to do 208. So much understeer. Will was definitely extremely strong today. It was good to see him get another victory this season. Had we gone back out, even with headlights on, I think Will was going to take the race. Congrats to him and Team Penske. We’ll keep our head down and see what we can come up with for the last three races.”

SIMON PAGENAUD (No. 22 Penske Truck Rental Chevrolet) – finished third: “Well, it’s a great day. Very happy for Will and Team Penske to get another win here in Pocono. It’s pretty awesome. I think we showed our cars were the strongest today. Overall it’s a pretty good points day for us on the 22 car this weekend. Obviously, yes, I did think we could have done a little better. At least we would have tried. I think we had the car to do so… Who knows what would have happened, but I think we could have challenged at least. At the end of the day it’s not a bad day. We’ll take it. Go to the next one, keep pushing.”

SANTINO FERRUCCI (No. 19 Cly-Del Manufacturing Honda) – finished fourth: “This weekend has been pretty amazing to have over 120 people here, from family and friends to sponsors and to race in front of such a large crowd. Hats off to the whole team, we rolled the car off the trailer and it was fast. I’d say that’s a job well-done and homework well-researched. The No. 19 Cly-Del Manufacturing Honda was on rails. I think we definitely had a top three in us and we were fighting for a chance to win the race at one point. Obviously with the conditions and everything, I’m still happy to bring home a top-five. It makes a huge difference in the rookie championship and moves us up to 12th overall. With three races to go and one more oval, we’ll see how much further we can move up.”

JOSEF NEWGARDEN (No. 2 Hitachi Team Penske Chevrolet) – finished fifth: “It was kind of an interesting day, but it could have been worse. It was sort of like qualifying yesterday where qualifying got rained out but we started on the pole. We didn’t finish this race but we finished fifth. We’ll take it. I wish we could have been a little bit higher, but I think Will (Power) was going to be tough to beat today. He looked very strong. Certainly towards the middle of the race I thought he was looking very good. We fought with what we had today and I thought the Hitachi Chevy was pretty good. Coming out of here with a decent finish allows us to now focus on the last three events. We just need to set our sights on Gateway next weekend and execute. I think we will have a good car. I always feel confident with Team Penske, and Team Chevy has been pushing hard, so I’m looking forward to it.”

ED CARPENTER (No. 20 SONAX Chevrolet) – finished sixth: “We needed a decent run. We DNF’ed at Iowa, which wasn’t good. I feel like we have been performing better this year, we just haven’t really been able to put it together. It was nice to be in the mix, racing with the guys you need to race with to be up there fighting for wins. I wish we could have seen out all 500 miles, but Pocono always has its own craziness when it comes to the weather. Hopefully, all of the fans got to their cars before they got too wet. I thought it was a really good turnout today, it was a fun race while we were out there. It was unfortunate to see guys kind of lose their minds a bit there at the start, but all in all it was a fun day and nice to be moving forward.”

SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS (No. 18 SealMaster Honda) – finished seventh: “It was a strong run for the No. 18 SealMaster Honda. We were quick and I got up to fourth at one point. I think we deserved that position. It was kind of a broken up race and unfortunately, on the last restart, the guys in front of me checked up and I got swallowed up and lost four positions. I got one position back, then the race was stopped because of the weather. I think if the race continued we would have finished better than seventh, but that’s racing.”

TONY KANAAN (No. 14 ABC Supply AJ Foyt Racing Chevrolet) – finished eighth: “Good day for us, another top 10. We have a few things to improve still but we’ll take it from where we started. We had a competitive car all weekend. The goal was to finish in the top 10 and we finished eighth, which is my best result of the year. It’s a good energy boost for the boys.”

GRAHAM RAHAL (No. 15 TOTAL Honda) – finished ninth: “We need a little more pace. We were a little slow on the straights for some reason, but we’ll keep digging into it. I had a bad restart (went from fifth to ninth), but it wasn’t that bad actually. I was pulling up on the guys in front of me, but I just got driven around and was in a position where I was a little bit of a sitting duck and lost a bunch of spots and that killed our race from then-on, frankly. We were scrambling just to get ourselves back in position. I had another good restart later and went from 13th to ninth and made some of those spots back up.”

CHARLIE KIMBALL (No. 23 Tresiba Carlin Chevrolet) – finished 10th: “First and foremost, I’m glad that everyone is OK from the incidents on track today. Secondly, I’m just really proud of this Carlin crew. We made great progress with the No. 23 Tresiba Chevrolet in superspeedway trim and we learned a lot after coming here last year. The racing at Pocono Raceway is really tough, but these guys just kept their head down and made it happen. I made a mistake in the first pit stop, but we were able to run our strategy and get a really good run going. To come away with a top-10 finish from a very challenging weekend where we didn’t get to qualify is really a credit to the entire Carlin team. It was really great to get that top-10 finish in front of all of our Novo Nordisk guests who made the trip out to the track to support us and also to round out the top 10 with a bowtie for Team Chevy.”

CONOR DALY (No. 59 Gallagher Carlin Chevrolet): – finished 11th “After where we started at the back of the field, to finish 11th is awesome. It’s unfortunate though, because we were really just starting to get to the point where I was happier with the No. 59 Gallagher Carlin Chevrolet. The last few laps before the final red flag, we were the fastest car on the track, so we were definitely moving in the right direction. We were catching all of the people in front of us and starting to get to where we needed to be, but these 500-mile races are long and the goal is to be strong at the end, which I really felt like we were working toward that for sure. To be 11th is really good and it’s another strong finish for this group of people here at Carlin. Hopefully we can keep this momentum going into Gateway and that’ll be even more fun.”

MARCUS ERICSSON (No. 7 Arrow Schmidt Peterson Motorsports Honda) – finished 12th: “It was a tough race. I thought I had some really good starts and restarts; we made up positions there. Unfortunately, throughout the race we were struggling a bit with the balance of the car throughout the stints, so I was struggling to keep up with the pace with the guys ahead or behind us. I thought at one point there after the second restart and we were up to P5, the day was looking to potentially be really good. Just a tough race trying to hang on and make the best of it. We learned a lot and the Arrow SPM guys did a great job with stops, but disappointed we didn’t have a better result than that.”

ZACH VEACH (No. 26 Gainbridge Honda) – finished 13th: “Thirteenth obviously isn’t where we wanted to finish – but all things aside, it was an OK day for us. Just lacking overall grip, I think as a team, but we moved forward from our starting spot – which with qualifying being canceled hurt us. I’m thankful for all the work the guys did. Honestly, walking away 13th isn’t what we want, but we did all we could and I’m proud of that. We’ll go to Gateway and have a better result.”

MATHEUS LEIST (No. 4 ABC Supply AJ Foyt Racing Chevrolet) – finished 14th: “The car was good. The stops were perfect and I think we had a good strategy. We went a lap down cause we had too much vibration in one of our tires, so we had to stop early and that was it from there.”

MARCO ANDRETTI (No. 98 US Concrete / Curb Honda) – finished 15th: “Mainly, I’m just glad everyone walked out OK after the wreck on the start. I had an issue with one of my head pads coming out and we lost some time fixing that. Beyond that, the car had a big imbalance and by the time we got that resolved, we were a lap down. There wasn’t much we could do, and it made for a long day. Looking ahead to Gateway and working to finish the season strong.”

COLTON HERTA (No. 88 Capstone Turbine Honda) – finished 16th: “The No. 88 Capstone Turbine Honda guys gave me a great car for the ABC Supply 500, I think we had one of the better cars on track today and definitely a better car than where we finished. It’s unfortunate that we got into the wall there. It’s very disappointing. I know we’ll be able to rebound next week at Gateway. I really like racing there and I’m excited to compete under the lights.”

SPENCER PIGOT (No. 21 Autogeek Chevrolet) – finished 17th: “That was a frustrating end to the day, we hit a bump in Turn 1 and it caused something to break on the front of the car. From then on, I was just a passenger and went straight up into the wall. I had no steering at that point, unfortunately. We were running pretty comfortably there in seventh and the car was feeling pretty good. We had lost touch with the group in front but I felt like we had a solid car. I feel bad for everyone at Ed Carpenter Racing, we have a race again next weekend and now there is a lot of extra work to do.”

ALEXANDER ROSSI (No. 27 MilitaryToMotorsports.com Honda) – finished 18th: “Obviously, I didn’t get a good start – so that’s on me. But we were three-wide; Ryan was on the inside, I was in the middle and Takuma was on the outside. I can’t even begin to understand how after last year Takuma thinks that any sort of driving like that is acceptable. To turn across two cars, at that speed, in that corner at a 500-mile race is disgraceful, upsetting and may have cost us a championship. It’s upsetting. This team works too hard to have something like that happen. The whole team worked tirelessly to get the 27 car back on track. Once we got out there, the car just didn’t have the handling we needed so we held on to make up as many points as we could. Unfortunately, the weather came, and the race was called one lap before we could gain another spot. We have a couple days to rebound and go for race wins now – that’s all that matters.”

RYAN HUNTER-REAY (No. 28 DHL Honda) – finished 19th: “The opening lap wreck was ridiculous and thank God everybody was alright. It’s so unfortunate at the beginning of a 500-mile race. The car was good yesterday and we just needed to put together 500 clean miles. The DHL car deserved to be fighting for a win today. We did all we could do after coming back out. The guys did a great job; unbelievable effort in getting the car turned back around. But we were really loose in (Turn) 3, and it turned out we had holes in the underwing from the crash. The last thing we want to do is be a risk out there and damage more equipment, so we got the points we could and came in just before the weather hit.”

JAMES HINCHCLIFFE (No. 5 Arrow Schmidt Peterson Motorsports Honda) – finished 20th: “It unfolded in front of us. We had a pretty good start with the No. 5 Arrow car. We were heading into Turn 2 kind of three-wide, and I knew that wasn’t a good idea, so I backed out. I thought I was actually gonna save us because it happened in front of me. I couldn’t see exactly what started it, but then the wreck sorta moved down to the inside… I was able to slow down, but it just slid out to where I was. There was nowhere I could go. It sucks. I mean it wasn’t too hard a hit, so glad everybody is ok. It’s a 500-mile race, I don’t know how many times we have to do this before people figure out that you can attack all you want, but it doesn’t give you a chance to win if you are in the fence.”

TAKUMA SATO (No. 30 Mi-Jack / Panasonic Honda) – finished 21st: “First of all, I am worried about Felix. Hopefully he is OK. I am sorry for all the guys fighting for the championship. Ryan and I were obviously racing at the exit of Turn 1 and it looks like Alexander had a slow start. We both went right and left (of Rossi) and I thought it was all clear. All the (track) seams also are putting the car really easy to get the lane change and everybody gets close. Unfortunately, it looks like we made contact for that.”

FELIX ROSENQVIST (No. 10 NTT Data Ganassi Racing Honda) – finished 22nd: “First of all, it’s good to see that I’m cleared from the medical checks. Just with minor back pain and some headache. Hopefully I should be back to normal in a couple of days. A big thanks to the INDYCAR track staff and medical staff, did an awesome job looking after everything. Luckily the other drivers are OK as well, I think that’s the main thing. A shame that we were caught out already on lap one. I think we had a good car today. Good to see Scott being up there all day. Good points for him, probably throwing him up there in the championship hunt. Looking forward to get back in the car in Gateway.”

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