Simon Pagenaud feels no stress as he pursues second championship

Joe Skibinski / IndyCar
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PORTLAND, Oregon – With two races remaining in the 2019 NTT IndyCar Series, Simon Pagenaud has already had what can only be described as a “dream season”.

The Frenchman found success early on in the season when he passed Scott Dixon for the lead with five laps remaining to win the IndyCar Grand Prix on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course, the first victory for the No. 22 team since the season finale at Sonoma Raceway in 2017.

One week later, Pagenaud won the pole position for the 103rd running of the Indianapolis 500, a race he then went on to win the following weekend after a memorable battle with Alexander Rossi for the victory.

A complete sweep of the month of May at Indy would already make any driver’s season, but Pagenaud wasn’t, and still isn’t done just yet.

He won from the pole on the streets of Toronto in July and now with two races remaining, he sits second in the championship standings, 38 points behind his Team Penske teammate Josef Newgarden.

A second championship would obviously put an exclamation point on Pagenaund’s already successful 2019 campaign.

“It’s been going very well for us,” Pagenaud told NBC Sports. “2016 was pretty awesome, but I think I’m having the most fun I’ve ever had. Winning Indy really allowed me to just step back and enjoy things a bit more.”

This team has been very, very focused – more so than ever – and I’ve been able to unlock some doors mentally speaking that have allowed me to be more aggressive in some instances, but also still calculate my position, so at this point we have been slowly marching toward the front of the championship.”

Steve King/IndyCar

With a second title within reach, one might assume that the next two races would be extremely stressful for Pagenaud.

However, Pagenaud is not going to let any negative emotions get in his way. In fact, he feels no pressure while pursing championship number two.

“My goal is to win the championship,” Pagenaud said. “But the way to win it this year, I think, is to just focus on myself.

“I think when you have fun, things roll for you and you attract the right side of the universe. I really believe that.

“My goal is really to  keep doing what I’ve been doing, and I think it will sort itself out at this point. I already feel so fortunate to be in the position I’m in. I’m in the best team, I’ve won the biggest race in the world, and I’ve won this championship before. I feel no stress. I feel no anxiety. I just feel like it’s time to go, and I’m only looking forward. It’s really the ideal situation.”

In regards to ideal situations, finishing 1-2 in the final standings would certainly be the ideal situation for Team Penske, and Pagenaud knows that if he is going to race his teammate for the championship, he needs to race him carefully.

“I would try not to get together [with Newgarden],” Pagenaud said. “That’s the main goal.

“Having a teammate fight for it is not always great because you have to take care of each other and you want one of the cars to win. I want that, so I always take extra care with Josef more than I would with someone else.”

Make no mistake though, just because Pagenaud doesn’t want to cause unnecessary trouble for his teammate, doesn’t mean he doesn’t want win the championship. He just understands that at the end of the day, racing is really a team sport, and he wants to share a possible title with the whole crew.

“We wouldn’t be here without them,” Pagenaud said. “It’s a sport that everybody thinks is a selfish sport where the driver does it all. But really [as drivers], we’re at the end of the cycle.

“You got mechanics that repair our cars. We haven’t had a mechanical issue all year. You’ve got the shock department. The do a lot of work understanding the dampers. I could go on and on. There’s a whole team behind us that’s just trying every bit to get better.

“If you forget about them, you’re not going to win.”

Live coverage of the Grand Prix of Portland begins Sunday, September 1 at 3 p.m. ET on NBC.

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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.