May 22, 2013, 1:00 PM EDT
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.
Chase Elliott keeps winning, but he’s not finished capturing checkered flags this season by any stretch
Jul 22, 2014, 1:38 AM EDT
With the third win of his rookie Nationwide Series career, Chase Elliott continued to make it look easy in this past Saturday night’s EnjoyIllinois.com 300 at Chicagoland Speedway.
Jul 21, 2014, 8:05 PM EDT
For Wallace and his Truck Series rivals, racing on dirt presents a different set of challenges – and thus requires a different way to train.
Jul 21, 2014, 7:01 PM EDT
In a satellite radio interview, France shared his thoughts on the consortium of NASCAR’s most powerful teams.
Jul 21, 2014, 6:02 PM EDT
Jack Hawksworth will co-drive the No. 08 Prototype Challenge car for RSR Racing in Friday’s IMSA event on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course.
Jul 21, 2014, 5:10 PM EDT
Between his Eldora Speedway hosting the Truck Series and then competing at Indianapolis this weekend in Sprint Cup, Stewart’s in the middle of a busy week.
Jul 21, 2014, 3:45 PM EDT
All the notes and numbers to keep in mind for NASCAR’s visit to Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
Jul 21, 2014, 3:00 PM EDT
One last bit of fun for Hamlin, Ricky Stenhouse Jr., and Michael Waltrip before the Sprint Cup Series returns to action at Indianapolis.
Jul 21, 2014, 2:15 PM EDT
Indianapolis Motor Speedway delivers a bizarre take on the classic “Sunday! Sunday! Sunday!” ads.
Jul 21, 2014, 1:30 PM EDT
Writer’s Note: The following is a recap of this weekend’s TORC: The Off-Road Championship races from Bark River, Michigan. NBCSN will air the races on Sun., Aug. 3, at 1:30 p.m. ET. If you don’t want to know who won until then, we suggest you find another post to read here on MotorSportsTalk…
Jul 21, 2014, 1:00 PM EDT
Chevrolet dominates the results sheet for IndyCar in Toronto.
Jul 21, 2014, 12:30 PM EDT
Writer’s Note: The following is a recap of this weekend’s Pirelli World Challenge races from the streets of Toronto. NBCSN will broadcast the Toronto races on Sunday, Aug. 10, at 1:30 p.m. ET. If you don’t want to know who won until then, we suggest you find another post to read here on MotorSportsTalk…
Jul 21, 2014, 12:00 PM EDT
Quartet of Hondas could have stolen the second of the Honda Indy Toronto races if not for the final red flag.
Jul 21, 2014, 11:00 AM EDT
Podiums and successful damage limitation pay dividends for Team Penske teammates Will Power and Helio Castroneves in Toronto.
Jul 21, 2014, 10:00 AM EDT
Opportunistic Mike Conway and Ed Carpenter Racing delivered on their opportunity to succeed once again in Toronto.
Jul 21, 2014, 9:30 AM EDT
Sebastien Bourdais is back to winning form in the Verizon IndyCar Series – and that’s a good thing for him and the series.
Jul 21, 2014, 8:00 AM EDT
Stewards deem it to be a racing incident, but Massa is less than impressed by Magnussen’s move.
Jul 21, 2014, 7:00 AM EDT
German driver continues his points scoring streak on home soil.
NHRA finals at Bandimere: Robert Hight over John Force in Funny Car, J.R. Todd wins first Top Fuel race since 2008
Jul 21, 2014, 12:32 AM EDT
If you’re an NHRA Funny Car fan and weren’t able to attend in person, suffice to say it was a heck of a battle in Sunday’s finals of the Mopar Mile-High Nationals at Bandimere Speedway in suburban Denver.
Todd Gilliland, 14, outdistances father David, grandfather Butch in first time they’ve all raced together
Jul 20, 2014, 10:48 PM EDT
Todd Gilliland has learned virtually everything he knows about racing from his father, Sprint Cup driver David Gilliland, and grandfather and dominating former west coast racer Butch Gilliland.
- NASCAR’s Brian France on RTA’s formation: “We didn’t think it was necessary” 6
- Eldora and Indy putting a lot on Tony Stewart’s plate 0
- Todd Gilliland, 14, outdistances father David, grandfather Butch in first time they’ve all raced together 0
- Conway bags second Toronto win thanks to pit gamble, great restart (VIDEO) 4
- German GP Paddock Notebook – Sunday 1