May 22, 2013, 1:00 PM EST
Rookies get all the attention at Indianapolis. And then they become sophomores, where they’re now wiser fools and more grown up.
Simon Pagenaud’s among the crop of second-year drivers at Indy, and the Frenchman’s undoubtedly more comfortable this go-around in the No. 77 HP Schmidt Hamilton Motorsports Honda. For one thing, this race last year wasn’t just his first Indianapolis 500, but also his first oval race – ever.
“We’ve come such a long way since Indy last year,” he explained during the Indy 500 media day on Monday in Milwaukee. “My comfort level is there with the way the racecar feels. Last year the team was very conservative with me and I hit my stride slowly. I wasn’t very comfortable yet.
“But after a few oval races, I saw I got up to the task pretty quick. Now we found a setup exactly right for me. It’s a bit aggressive. It suits me really well.”
One of Pagenaud’s greatest assets is his ability to adapt to changing circumstances quickly. He had the tutelage of veteran Townsend Bell a year ago in the SHM stable, but now has a rookie teammate for the full season in countryman Tristan Vautier, and a last-minute addition with Katherine Legge in a third car for the 500.
The additional efforts in the Schmidt team aren’t a distraction to Pagenaud, as he’s focusing on his setup first and making sure that setup can transfer to his teammates if need be.
“The essential thing is finding a setup that suits me,” he said. “And I guess it must be really good, because we put it on Katherine’s car and she was flat in four laps! It highlights the good job they’ve been doing.
“It’s a bit of a stretch to have three cars, and it’s very different to last year. But the team is well focused on the goals and what we’re doing. I’m working with Ben (Bretzman), Tristan with Allen (McDonald), Katherine with an Indy Lights engineer (Chris Finch). It doesn’t change much, so long as we don’t get distracted.”
Although Honda’s lacked the outright speed compared to Chevrolet thus far this month, Pagenaud isn’t worried because of the projected gains it’s looking to find on Carb Day. Additionally, Pagenaud’s pace is close to the longtime Honda flag-bearer, Target Chip Ganassi Racing, so that’s an additional boost. No pun is intended given the cars will have the turbo boost reduced back to 130 kPa on race day after an increase to 140 kPa, an additional 40 horsepower, for qualifying.
“I think we’re really happy with it. We’re pretty close to the red (Target) cars, so I think that’s a very good indication of how the team has been working,” he said.
“We all hoped we’d be further up the grid but have a great hope for the race! Honda is always very good for long races. You saw Dario won from being last last year after the first stop. As long as the car is good and it is, I feel confident.
“The nice thing about our car, the balance is so nice. We can be fairly aggressive. The trick part about the Indy 500 is to pick the right level of downforce.”
Seasoned IndyCar observers know Pagenaud and the HP’s team’s ability, and a good run on Sunday will go quite a ways to building his stature outside the bubble.
Dec 17, 2014, 8:47 PM EST
NASCAR revealed the 2015 schedules for the Whelen Modified Tour and its Southwest Modified Tour, including a first-time visit at the legendary Hickory (NC) Motor Speedway.
Dec 17, 2014, 7:23 PM EST
Do you like watching old racing videos and programs from the past? If so, you’re going to love this BBC video about NHRA drag racing from back in 1990.
Dec 17, 2014, 6:38 PM EST
Kurt Busch got the chance to tell his side in the legal battle with former girlfriend Patricia Driscoll. We break down what Kurt said in court on NASCAR America.
Dec 17, 2014, 5:16 PM EST
Kurt Busch testified Wednesday he asked former girlfriend Patricia Driscoll numerous times to leave his motorcoach on the night she claims the NASCAR driver struck her head several times.
Dec 17, 2014, 3:03 PM EST
The race to the finish line of Phase 1 of Daytona Rising at Daytona International Speedway kicked into high gear Wednesday, with a record 1,002 construction workers on-site.
Dec 17, 2014, 3:00 PM EST
Porsche Mobil 1 Supercup’s status grew in 2014. We caught up with the series manager during Austin F1 weekend.
Dec 17, 2014, 2:00 PM EST
Ferrari mass exodus continues.
Dec 17, 2014, 1:30 PM EST
At least two IndyCar stars will join the Rolex 24 lineup, but teams are TBD.
Dec 17, 2014, 1:23 PM EST
Ben Kennedy, the great-grandson of NASCAR founder Bill France Sr. and 2014 Camping World Truck Series Rookie of the Year, will race for Red Horse Racing in 2015, the team announced Wednesday.
Dec 17, 2014, 12:46 PM EST
As we continue our series on the top 30 drivers of the 2014 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, next up is series veteran Greg Biffle.
Dec 17, 2014, 12:10 PM EST
James Hinchcliffe tests Tuesday at Sebring with Schmidt Peterson.
Dec 17, 2014, 12:00 PM EST
Crafton made history in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series this year as its first back-to-back champion.
Dec 17, 2014, 11:00 AM EST
Allmendinger propelled his single-car team into the Chase with a win at Watkins Glen.
Dec 17, 2014, 10:32 AM EST
We’ve all been there, Jimmie. We’ve all been there.
Dec 17, 2014, 9:00 AM EST
No drivers, but DCR’s shock/damper program should be good in 2015.
Dec 16, 2014, 8:04 PM EST
It’s not an ideal situation for NASCAR, but as the NASCAR AMERICA gang explained today, it’s not a hopeless one either.
Dec 16, 2014, 7:14 PM EST
Patricia Driscoll broke down on the stand during the hearing in Dover, Delaware.
Dec 16, 2014, 5:30 PM EST
A two-day website auction on the assets of the former F1 outfit began today.
Dec 16, 2014, 4:44 PM EST
Scott Hargrove to test for 8Star’s Indy Lights team.
Dec 16, 2014, 4:30 PM EST
Coming up: What will Sprint’s departure in 2016 mean for NASCAR’s future?; Steve Letarte revisits his final race as a crew chief; more on the health of Brian Vickers; the inspiring story of the NHRA’s Jay Blake.
Video from NASCAR America
- Kurt Busch calls ex-girlfriend’s allegations a ‘fabrication’ 9
- Fry, Tombazis out as part of Ferrari’s ongoing restructuring 1
- Sprint to end title sponsorship of NASCAR’s Cup Series after 2016 (VIDEO) 17
- NBC SportsWorld: The vision of blind NHRA crew chief Jay Blake 1
- Rutledge Wood joins NBC Sports Group’s NASCAR and motors coverage 6
- NASCAR expands Sprint Unlimited field to include Chase drivers 3
- Health issues to sideline Brian Vickers for early part of 2015 Sprint Cup season 5