Simon Pagenaud is off to a blazing start to the 2016 Verizon IndyCar Series season, with consecutive wins coming on the heels of a pair of second-place finishes to open the campaign.
In his second season driving for Team Penske and seventh overall in Indy cars, Pagenaud is easily off to his best start ever and has opened a 48-point lead in the series standings heading to the two races this month at Indianapolis Motor Speedway – the Angie’s List Grand Prix of Indianapolis on the IMS road course May 14, followed by the momentous 100th Running of the Indianapolis 500 presented by PennGrade Motor Oil on the hallowed 2.5-mile oval May 29.
So what does the driver of the No. 22 Chevrolet attribute his dominance to in 2016? Why, what on the outside was a mediocre 2015, of course.
“This year we started really strong because of last year,” Pagenaud said today on an INDYCAR national media teleconference. “Last year the results were not there, but it's actually what we did last year that's paying off now.”
Joining the Penske juggernaut in 2015 in a fourth team car, Pagenaud brought along engineer Ben Bretzman from his previous home at Schmidt Peterson Motorsports. Other than that, he had to assimilate into a new team and new manner of doing things – the Penske way.
While Pagenaud ran strong at many events – including the 2015 Indy 500 where he raced up front most of the day until a broken front wing dropped him to an eventual 10th-place finish – he managed just a pair of third-place race finishes and wound up 11th in the championship. Pagenaud, however, was not dismayed.
“In terms of performance, I felt like I did much better (in 2015) than I did in the past, so I knew I would have speed,” the 31-year-old Frenchman said. “I knew the speed was there. Now it was about executing and putting everything together.
“When I say everything, it's not just on track, it's also off track, finding a way to have perfect chemistry with my whole team, finding a way to make sure that we were all on the same page and pushing in the same direction. I think that's what everybody's doing now.
“I expected we would be strong (this season),” Pagenaud said. “We started really, really strong. I just want to keep going now, really.”
With wins at Long Beach on April 17 and Barber Motorsports Park a week later, Pagenaud now has six career Indy car victories. One came at the inaugural Angie’s List Grand Prix of Indianapolis in 2014, on the 2.439-mile road circuit he enjoys.
“I love the road course, it's a beautiful layout,” he said. “The surface is really smooth so we can really be aggressive with the setup on the Indy car. I just love the fact that we kick off the month of May with a road course. The fans can see the cars in that configuration, then we switch over the Indy (oval) mode after that.
“I think it's great. It's what INDYCAR is all about: diversity. We're showing what we can do. Different kind of tracks, different configurations, the aerodynamics. I find that very exciting.”
Tickets are on sale for the Angie's List Grand Prix of Indianapolis and the 100th Indianapolis 500. For information, visit ims.com/tickets or call (800) 822-INDY between 8 a.m.-5 p.m. ET weekdays.