Simon Pagenaud was dressed for real-world success in iRacing victory

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In this “virtual world” that has become the year 2020, Team Penske driver Simon Pagenaud tried to be as realistic as possible in Saturday’s Chevrolet 275 at Michigan International Speedway.

He wore his full DXC Technology driver’s uniform to compete in his sim racing rig at his home on Lake Norman north of Charlotte, North Carolina.

When he won by finishing ahead of Team Penske Virgin Australia SuperCars champion Scott McLaughlin and former NASCAR Cup Series star Dale Earnhardt, Jr., the “Fast Frenchman” even celebrated as if it were a real victory.

Pagenaud at last year’s Indianapolis 500 with Norman in Victory Lane — INDYCAR Photo

His wife, Hailey, gave him a celebratory bottle of champagne after he took the checkered flag. Pagenaud even got a few wet kisses from his prized dog, a Jack Russell Terrier named Norman.

Essentially, last year’s Indianapolis 500 winner and 2016 NTT IndyCar Series champion went “all in” in Saturday’s third race of the IndyCar iRacing Challenge.

“I’m just as excited as I would be for a race win,” Pagenaud said. “Winning is everything.

It was a high-speed contest at the 2-mile, high-banked oval that last hosted a real IndyCar Series race in 2007.

Pagenaud never had raced at the real Michigan International Speedway.

“It was a very different feeling, for sure,” Pagenaud said. “It was a very different situation. At the Indianapolis 500 we went all out and tried to take control. We had the fastest car, so we just wanted to control the race. I ended up being in the same situation with fuel on the other side, we were a bit short on fuel and we had to save.

“But today the strategy was different because we didn’t qualify so well. I didn’t understand how to run the best line to get speed out of the car. Maybe I didn’t practice enough qualifying runs.

“But I knew in race pace I was going to be good.”

Pagenaud decided to hang with a driver who has plenty of experience in a stock car at Michigan but was competing in his first contest in a virtual Indy car.

“I decided to just actually hang with Dale because he has so much experience in this kind of racing in general,” Pagenaud said. “We figured out that we were actually saving fuel and tires really well. It helped us to do only one stop.

“At the end I was a bit stressed out, I must say. I was very stressed because I don’t feel as much in control. My engineer, Ben Bretzman, who is my usual engineer, was telling me the fuel code, the fuel level, how much to save fuel, that I was fine. He was telling me basically not to race people around me, which is very difficult. It’s a very different space awareness. That’s what I’m struggling with the most.

“Today was a very stressful day, very intense, very intense.”

Pagenaud started iRacing in 2008 but took a long break from the platform. The virtual IndyCar race at Watkins Glen International two weeks ago was the first full race Pagenaud contested in iRacing after that lengthy break. He currently trains five hours a day to be competitive.

“That’s my nature,” he said. “I want to win races. When IndyCar announced this official racing, I wanted to be myself and I wanted to go out there and do the best I could.

Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images

“Winning is the most satisfying thing that I know. Being able to do what we did today to me is why I train so hard; it’s why I do this.”

Racing drivers get hooked on that winning feeling, and all that comes with it. That is why Pagenaud took Saturday’s race seriously, from the full driver’s firesuit to the bottle of champagne to the warm and friendly greeting from his prized pup, Norman.

“Norman comes at the end of every race to give me kisses,” Pagenaud said gleefully. “He was very excited today like he can be when I win a race.

“The biggest thing about the race suit is my fellow drivers, they think I sleep in my race suit. I just wanted to show that I do sleep in my race suit.

“I also wanted to give some love to DXC. In these tough times, our sponsors are there for us. DXC Technology has been a phenomenal partner. We transitioned from HPE to DXE. I’ve had lot of good luck with that car. I love these guys. End of the day it’s a relationship and we work really hard on it with Team Penske.

“I just felt like wearing the race suit was probably the best way to represent them.”

Follow Bruce Martin on Twitter at @BruceMartin_500 

IMSA results, points, stats package after Sunday at Road America

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Helio Castroneves and Ricky Taylor delivered Team Penske’s first victory this season in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship, winning at Road America from the pole position Sunday and moving up to sixth in points after finishing no better than seventh in the first three races this season.

The Team Penske No. 7 Acura DPi led a race-high 48  of 63 laps, including the final four after Castroneves seized a restart to take first from Renger van der Zande, who finished second with Ryan Briscoe in the No. 10 Cadillac DPi.

Other class winners at the Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin, road course were the No. 81 ORECA LMP2 07 of Henrik Hedman and Ben Hanley in LMP2, the No. 3 Corvette C8.R of Antonio Garcia and Jordan Taylor in GTLM and the No. 12 Lexus RC F GT3 of Townsend Bell and Frankie Montecalvo in GTD.

RAIN-SOAKED RELIEF: Castroneves delivers Penske’s first win with late pass

Here are the race stats, points and results from the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship race at Road America:

RESULTS: Click here for the overall finishing order and here for the class breakdown.

POINTS: In the DPi standings, the No. 10 Cadillac of Briscoe and van der Zande leads by six points (124-118) over the No. 5 Cadillac of Joao Barbosa and Sebastien Bourdais.

The No. 3 Corvette of Antonio Garcia and Jordan Taylor leads the GTLM standings with 130 points, 10 more than the No. 912 Porsche of Earl Bamber and Laurens Vanthoor.

In GTD, the No. 12 Lexus of Bell and Montecalvo moved into the lead by four points (121-117) over AIM Vasser Sullivan teammates Jack Hawksworth and Aaron Telitz in the No. 14 Lexus.

The No. 38 of Performance Tech Motorsport leads in LMP2.

Click here for the points standings for drivers and teams after Road America.


Fastest laps by driver

Fastest laps by driver after race

Fastest laps by driver and class after race

Fastest lap sequence

Leader sequence

Lap chart

Race analysis by lap

NEXT: The IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship’s GT classes will race Aug. 21-22 at Virginia International Raceway.