Hailey McDermott

Bruce Martin Photo
Bruce Martin Photo

After a disappointing Detroit, Indy 500 winner Pagenaud hopes for Texas rebound

Leave a comment

DETROIT – A disappointing doubleheader weekend in Detroit is not going to get Simon Pagenaud down. The winner of the 103rd Indianapolis 500 is already looking ahead to his next challenge that could put him back in the spotlight.

Next up is the DXC Technology 600 at Texas Motor Speedway, the first of three Saturday night races on the NTT IndyCar Series schedule.

“I think Texas will be really good for us,” Pagenaud said. “I always run strong there. It’s one of my favorite ovals. I welcome it. I love the car we had there last year, and we have made progress on it, too. It should be a good battle and a good show for Team Penske.”

In seven previous starts at the 1.54-mile, high-banked oval, Pagenaud has four top-five finishes. He was fourth in 2016, third in 2017 and second in last year’s race that was won by Scott Dixon. That was his best race of 2018.

More recently, tired and weary, but still happy from his big win in the Indy 500, Pagenaud left Detroit looking forward to a recharge after his life-changing week.

At least now, Pagenaud can finally get a good night’s sleep.

“I’m going to sleep a lot,” Pagenaud said. “I don’t want to sound too disappointed, because I won the Indy 500. I leave here feeling very blessed.

“It’s been a very busy weekend for the Team Penske drivers because of the sponsors, but this is the most tired I have ever been on a race weekend. It’s such high competition here. You better be prepared when you show up at a race.”

Swept up in the whirlwind that surrounded his dramatic win in the 103rd Indianapolis 500, Pagenaud arrived in Detroit last week after an extensive media tour that took him to New York last Tuesday.

More media interviews took place the next day, and additional team and sponsor obligations involving the Chevrolet Detroit Grand Prix followed upon his arrival in Detroit.

No wonder Pagenaud told NBCSports.com that he was looking forward to getting back in the race car so he could finally relax.

Pagenaud was hoping to join Helio Castroneves (2001) as the only Indy 500 winners to win at Detroit in the same season. But he ended up having a mixed weekend.

The Frenchman had a decent Race 1 on Saturday, starting 13th and finishing sixth in what became a 75-minute timed event due to severe weather. But with sunny skies and near-perfect conditions for Sunday’s Race 2, he was involved in a first-lap crash in Turn 3 that also caught multiple others.

The incident left Pagenaud’s Chevrolet with a gear sensor failure, forcing him to the garage. His Team Penske crew made repairs and got him back to the track, where he took the checkered flag in 17th, 12 laps down.

“I got a good start, was right behind Will Power and I got hit in the back,” Pagenaud said. “We had a gear sensor damaged so I couldn’t restart the car. I had to wait for the car to come back in the pits and the guys fixed it. I got six points by returning to the race and that could be very important at the end of the season.

“We had the fastest lap in the race by a half-second. The car was really, really good. Too bad we couldn’t have raced because we could have challenged for it today. It could have been some good points. But we got pretty lucky today. Josef Newgarden had problems and that is a shame for Team Penske, but Alexander Rossi didn’t score too many points, either.

“I’m glad I got to race today, otherwise I would have been disappointed. But I got to run a lot of laps and that was really good. We have some valuable data for the next street race at Toronto, we found the speed, but it was just too late. Most teams would have given up. But at Team Penske, we never give up. It was an important weekend for us to get through.”