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The important insights: Schmidt’s French drivers on Sonoma’s wines

Aug 21, 2013, 7:00 PM EDT

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

By this point in the IndyCar season, teams need to get creative when it comes to thinking of new story angles or leads for advance press releases. Sam Schmidt’s team – the Schmidt Hamilton HP entry for Simon Pagenaud and Schmidt Peterson entry for rookie Tristan Vautier – took full advantage of the fact they employ two Frenchmen and inquired about their wine preferences.

This is Sonoma, American Wine Country, after all.

For Pagenaud, Napa Valley wines compare favorably to French wines, even if they represent a night-and-day difference.

“I always have good wine, no matter where I am,” Pagenaud said. “France is famous for wine, but I don’t think it’s better one place or another. Because of the temperature, sun and rain here in Sonoma the wine is very colorful and rich in terms of taste. It’s much fruitier than what we have in France. They’re actually very different but both good.”

Vautier, who’s only 24, is at least of age but said the task at hand over the weekend trumps wine tasting.

“Driving on a race weekend and wine tasting don’t really fit together, and we’re flying home right after the race Sunday night,” Vautier said. “I can’t offer much wine insight but I hope all of our fans and sponsors get to enjoy themselves!”

Both are a big fan of the Sonoma circuit, with its elevation changes and fast rhythm. Pagenaud finished second last time out at Mid-Ohio and enters the race fifth in points, while Vautier, the lone full-time rookie in the championship, sits 20th with his last top-10 finish at Barber in April. Vautier made the Firestone Fast Six in his first two starts of the year.

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