Indy win 'gives me a lot of confidence, obviously'
It's no surprise that the powerhouse organizations of Team Penske, Target Chip Ganassi Racing and Andretti Autosport are holding down four of the five positions in the Verizon IndyCar Series championship standings, but the driver not among that contingent continues to make the biggest impression.
Simon Pagenaud, driver of the No. 77 Oculus Transport Honda, currently sits third in the Verizon IndyCar Series standings four races into the season and has transformed the diminutive Schmidt Peterson Motorsports organization into an annual championship contender. He won rookie-of-the-year honors in 2012 as he finished fifth in the championship with Schmidt Peterson Motorsports and last year collected his first two career victories en route to a third-place finish in the championship.
With a victory in Saturday's inaugural Grand Prix of Indianapolis on Indianapolis Motor Speedway's 2.439-mile road course, Pagenaud continued an impressive streak of four consecutive top-five finishes to open the season. The momentum has ignited confidence in the Frenchman as the series shifts its attention from road courses to ovals in two of the next three events - the Indianapolis 500 Indianapolis 500 on Sunday, May 25, and the Firestone 600 at Texas Motor Speedway on Saturday, June 7.
"It gives me a lot of confidence obviously. But it's also a great championship run for me today," Pagenaud said following his victory. "We've placed really well in the first three, and then we won the fourth one. It's very important before going to the Indy 500. It's a good dynamic for the team, for myself, my confidence level. God knows how confident you have to be around here on an oval."
The success Pagenaud and his Schmidt Peterson Motorsports team are enjoying comes as no surprise to those in the organization. Backing up last year's strong season is what has captured the league's attention. Dating back to last season, he has eight top-five finishes in the last 10 races and has remained a perennial contender for a victory and now for a championship.
"I think we are a championship contender," Pagenaud said. "We were third last year. We were in the championship hunt until the last race. It's fair to say that we are where we want to be, fighting for wins. Being consistent in the championship is what gives you championship wins. What the team does really well is the people working in the team are very dedicated and very smart. I think the group on the 77 car is very strong. We're extracting 100 percent of what we have."
Pagenaud credits his success to a newfound approach to racing, one that has already proven to pay dividends.
"I used to stress a lot about my racing career," Pagenaud said. "It's difficult to make it as a race driver. I've been stressing up until last year about my job security. I'm turning 30, so I've got another 12 years hopefully in (the Verizon IndyCar Series), 10 or 12 years. I think I've shown my speed. I've shown consistency. Now I have decided this year to relax and just let my driving do the rest. So I enjoy it."
Pagenaud and the stars of the Verizon IndyCar Series will return to Texas Motor Speedway for the Firestone 600 - "America's Original Nighttime IndyCar Race." Texas Motor Speedway is offering the "Family 4-Pack" special, four Firestone 600 race tickets, four hot dogs and four Coca-Cola products for $99, which offers a savings of over 70 percent. Tickets for the Firestone 600 are available by contacting the Texas Motor Speedway ticket office at (817) 215-8500 or by visiting www.texasmotorspeedway.com.
Texas Motor Speedway Public Relations