As the reigning winner of the Indianapolis 500, Simon Pagenaud has first-hand knowledge at how winning the biggest race in the world has changed his life.
Now that his team owner, Roger Penske, has agreed to purchase the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, the Indianapolis 500, INDYCAR and IMS Productions, Pagenaud predicts even greater things for the grandest event in auto racing.
“I don’t think there is anybody that can fulfill the role as well as Roger Penske can,” Pagenaud told NBC Sports.com in an exclusive interview. “I’m very excited about the future. What the Penske Corporation can bring to the sport, the sky is the limit from now on.
“It’s very exciting for the future of INDYCAR, for the Indianapolis 500 and myself as a driver being in this sport.”
Pagenaud also remembered the 74-year ownership history of the Hulman George Family, that began when Tony Hulman purchased the Indianapolis Motor Speedway from Eddie Rickenbacker on November 14, 1945.
“It’s been incredible to see what the Hulman-George Family have done for the sport,” Pagenaud said. “Personally, as a winner of the Indianapolis 500, you enter that exclusive club as a winner. It was a dream to go to that track as a kid and it was a dream to win it. It was a very unreachable dream and it was made known to me when I was a kid.
“That family has done so much for me and for the sport that I love, I’m super thankful.
“Roger Penske has a very similar story except he ended up buying it in the end. It’s incredible to see the empire he has produced. I’m very proud to drive for Team Penske; very proud to see what my boss has accomplished in his career.”
At 82 years of age, Penske continues to command a “full-speed ahead” approach to his massive business empire and his legendary racing team that has won a combined 545 races all over the world including a record 18 wins in the Indianapolis 500.
“Roger is the best at knowing what to do with his schedule,” Pagenaud said. “I can tell you one thing, it’s impressive how he manages things so perfectly while being so busy. That is a trait of character for a very successful businessman and he is one of the most successful in the world.
“It’s incredible to see the desire that he has. It’s incredible that I know him personally and I’m very proud to be one of his drivers.
“The Penske drivers, when you join Team Penske you represent more than just the team, you represent the brand. That brand just expanded.
“That future is going to be more exciting for all of us.”
Pagenaud has full confidence in the Penske Corporation, INDYCAR and its staff led by CEO Mark Miles and President Jay Frye and their staffs.
“Personally, I’m along for the ride,” Pagenaud said. “I’m excited for the ride we are about to take.”
There was another life-changing moment for Pagenaud on October 25. That is when he married his longtime girlfriend, Hailey McDermott, at a small, private outdoor ceremony in Napa, California.
McDermott and Pagenaud have been together for seven years. Six weeks ago, they made it official.
“I have been married for a while to that lovely lady,” Pagenaud quipped. “I’ve accomplished all my dreams.”