BELLE ISLE, Mich – Simon Pagenaud is happy that the weekend of Belle Isle is behind him. See, the Team Penske driver is mentally drained after a busy week behind him.
Pagenaud, won last Sunday’s 103rd Running of the Indianapolis 500 and off he went on a busy week of media tours. He says he barely slept all week which he feels blessed though to be a part of that. But, when the next race is in Detroit and when his team owner is the promoter of the race, the weekend is just as busy as the week he just went though.
So, for Pagenaud to be still within striking distance of the points lead when it was all said and done, he’s happy with that, especially with Texas coming up.
“I will sleep a lot,” said Pagenaud after completing the doubleheader in Belle Isle. “Obviously, I don’t want to sound too disappointed because I won the Indy 500. I want to leave here on a high note and remember I’m very blessed.
“You see the popularity go up and more interesting all around. It’s busy. It’s obviously a very busy weekend for Team Penske with all the sponsors that we have to take care of which is a good thing which is also a double edge sword because that’s the most tired that I’ve ever been in a race weekend.”
Simon Pagenaud at Belle Isle this weekend – INDYCAR Media Site
Pagenaud joked that he’s done the 24 Hours of LeMans in the past and that a race like that is grueling too, but nothing pares to what he just went through over the last seven days.
It’s not like he’s off compared to past Indy 500 race winners either. It’s hard to win two straight Indy Car races, let alone the ‘500 and the week after. Last year, Will Power finished seventh and second respectively here following his ‘500 triumph. In 2017, Takuma Sato was eighth and fourth respectively. In 2016, Alexander Rossi was 10th and 12th himself.
This weekend, Pagenaud finished sixth on Saturday but only 17th on Sunday. It was a day that Pagenaud felt got away from him. See, he only qualified 13th and 14th respectively in the two days but Sunday caught up to him. He was punted by Tony Kanaan from behind on the opening lap. That forced his car to be stuck in gear which didn’t allow for him to continue on until his crew was able to repair his No. 22 Chevrolet behind the wall.
Pagenaud, would return 13 laps down but his day was basically done.
“I was right behind Will (Power) and we were hit in the back,” said Pagenaud. “We had a sensor so it was stuck in gear. We had to wait for the car to come back and the guys did a great job of fixing it which gained us six points which should help us in the end.”
Pagenaud takes solace though because his car was strong. He notes that the fastest lap of the race was run by him after his car was repaired. Plus, his teammate Josef Newgarden crashed and Alexander Rossi didn’t win.
While that’s good, it also shows that it was a day that Pagenaud says was a missed opportunity.
“We had the fastest lap of the race by a half of a second,” Pagenaud continued. “The car was really, really good. It’s a bit of a shame we didn’t get to battle in the race because I think we had a good car today. It would have been a huge day for points. But, at the end of the day, I think we got pretty lucky today. Rossi didn’t score too much so for the both of us, it’s pretty good.
“It’s a shame for the both of us. It’s a shame for Team Penske. Glad (Alexander) Rossi didn’t score too much.
“It’s a missed opportunity, lets just be honest. You only get so many opportunities. Most teams would have given up. We never give up with Team Penske. To make up six points, I think we should be grateful. It’s not so much about Josef (Newgarden) not finishing up there, it’s more (Alexander) Rossi not winning or scoring as many points.”
For the future races, Pagenaud has a good outlook. Next is Texas a place to where Pagenaud finished third in 2017 and second last year. Trends say he will win on Saturday. Plus, he just won the last superspeedway race last Sunday.
Then, for the final street circuit of the year next month at Toronto, Pagenaud says they found some good data on Sunday for that.
“I think Texas is going to be really good for us. We’ve always been strong. It’s one of my favorite ovals. It’s really good for Toronto. I think we got some valuable data. We were always just a session behind all weekend but we found it in the end.”