The 2016 Verizon IndyCar Series Championship Celebration got off to a glimmering start on a beautiful fall day in downtown Indianapolis.
INDYCAR shut down half of Monument Circle in the city center and filled it with race cars, transporters, drivers and gave away free lunch in advance of tonight’s awards ceremony at Hilbert Circle Theatre on the circle. It is there that this year’s champion, Simon Pagenaud, will be honored along with other season award recipients.
Pagenaud, the driver of the No. 22 Team Penske Chevrolet, was on hand for the midday festivities – greeting fans and helping hand out free Qdoba lunches to the hundreds who lined up at noon. Joining Pagenaud in the festivities were fellow Verizon IndyCar Series drivers Conor Daly, Luca Filippi and Spencer Pigot, along with the host of the event, Mark Miles, CEO of Hulman & Co., the parent of INDYCAR and Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
“Seeing what INDYCAR is doing to make this event so special, it really holds a very special place in my heart,” Pagenaud said as he gazed around at the spectacle that included his championship-winning car, the Indy 500-winning car of Alexander Rossi and flags representing all of the series’ drivers snapping briskly in the light breeze. “I realize the effort that everybody’s putting in. As the champion now, it’s incredible to see all the effort that’s being put behind all this.”
Miles spent much of his time on Monument Circle talking with and thanking fans for their continuing support of the series.
“It’s great to be on Monument Circle on a 74-degree day; perfect weather,” Miles said. “Wherever INDYCAR show up with all the big transporters and the drivers, it draws a crowd. Today’s no exception. It’s a great crowd, we’re going to give out some lunches and then roll out the red carpet and start the celebration tonight.”
The Championship Celebration begins at 6:45 p.m. ET and will stream live on IndyCar.com and on the INDYCAR Facebook page. Pagenaud is just hoping he isn’t overwhelmed when it’s time for him to take the stage and accept his $1 million champion’s prize.
“It’s starting to sink in,” he said. “Hopefully I’m not going to get too emotional tonight at the celebration.”