Skip to content

Pagenaud: More comfortable and confident for second Indy 500 start

May 22, 2013, 1:00 PM EST

Simon Pagenaud and Tristan Vautier talk during practice for the Indianapolis 500 in Indianapolis. Reuters

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.

Latest Posts
  1. NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour and Southern Modified Tour release expanded 2015 schedules

    Dec 17, 2014, 8:47 PM EST

    nbc whelen modified tour logo

    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.

  2. Blast from the past: British video shows what NHRA was like back in 1990

    Dec 17, 2014, 7:23 PM EST

    (AP Photo/NHRA) AP

    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.

  3. NASCAR America: Kurt Busch testifies in protection order hearing (video)

    Dec 17, 2014, 6:38 PM EST

    (AP Photo/Terry Renna, File) AP

    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.

  4. Kurt Busch calls ex-girlfriend’s allegations a ‘fabrication’

    Dec 17, 2014, 5:16 PM EST

    Kurt Busch and Patricia Driscoll in happier times at the 2013 NASCAR Awards Banquet in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/Eric Jamison, File) AP

    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.

  5. Daytona Rising begins race to finish line of Phase 1

    Dec 17, 2014, 3:03 PM EST

    daytona rising logo

    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.

  6. Insight: Porsche Mobil 1 Supercup’s presence in F1, and America

    Dec 17, 2014, 3:00 PM EST

    Photo: Porsche Photo: Porsche

    Porsche Mobil 1 Supercup’s status grew in 2014. We caught up with the series manager during Austin F1 weekend.

  7. Expect IndyCar’s Hinch, RHR in Rolex 24 rides

    Dec 17, 2014, 1:30 PM EST

    James Hinchcliffe, Ryan Hunter-Reay AP

    At least two IndyCar stars will join the Rolex 24 lineup, but teams are TBD.

  8. Ben Kennedy, great-grandson of NASCAR founder Bill France Sr., signs with Red Horse Racing

    Dec 17, 2014, 1:23 PM EST

    (Jared C. Tilton/NASCAR via Getty Images) Getty Images

    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.

  9. NASCAR: Top drivers of 2014 – No. 14 Greg Biffle

    Dec 17, 2014, 12:46 PM EST

    (David Becker/Getty Images) Getty Images

    As we continue our series on the top 30 drivers of the 2014 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, next up is series veteran Greg Biffle.

  10. IndyCar: Hinchcliffe completes “get to know you” first test with SPM

    Dec 17, 2014, 12:10 PM EST

    Road America Getty Images

    James Hinchcliffe tests Tuesday at Sebring with Schmidt Peterson.

  11. Top NASCAR stories of 2014: No. 14 – Matt Crafton doubles up in the Trucks

    Dec 17, 2014, 12:00 PM EST

    NASCAR Nationwide and NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Banquet Getty Images

    Crafton made history in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series this year as its first back-to-back champion.

  12. NASCAR: Top drivers of 2014 – No. 13 A.J. Allmendinger

    Dec 17, 2014, 11:00 AM EST

    GoBowling.com 400 - Practice Getty Images

    Allmendinger propelled his single-car team into the Chase with a win at Watkins Glen.

  13. IndyCar: Coyne makes first offseason announcement with new shock engineer

    Dec 17, 2014, 9:00 AM EST

    Shell Pennzoil Grand Prix of Houston - Day 3 Getty Images

    No drivers, but DCR’s shock/damper program should be good in 2015.

  14. NASCAR AMERICA: The end is coming for the Sprint era (VIDEO)

    Dec 16, 2014, 8:04 PM EST

    Ford EcoBoost 400 Getty Images

    It’s not an ideal situation for NASCAR, but as the NASCAR AMERICA gang explained today, it’s not a hopeless one either.

  15. Kurt Busch’s ex-girlfriend testifies in protection order hearing

    Dec 16, 2014, 7:14 PM EST

    kurt busch sonoma Getty Images

    Patricia Driscoll broke down on the stand during the hearing in Dover, Delaware.

  16. F1: Gene Haas among possible bidders at ongoing Marussia auction

    Dec 16, 2014, 5:30 PM EST

    Gene Haas Formula One Press Conference Getty Images

    A two-day website auction on the assets of the former F1 outfit began today.

  17. WATCH LIVE: NASCAR AMERICA breaks down Sprint’s decision at 5 p.m. ET

    Dec 16, 2014, 4:30 PM EST

    Food City 500 Practice Getty Images

    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

Can next sponsor invigorate NASCAR?
Top 10 NASCAR Driver Searches
  1. D. Suarez (1914)
  2. M. Tifft (1868)
  3. K. Busch (1856)
  4. J. Boston (1773)
  5. A. Self (1688)
  1. C. Coughlin (1325)
  2. S. Heckert (1254)
  3. K. Larson (1231)
  4. D. Kwasniewski (1167)
  5. J. Haley (1095)