Pagenaud Has Done Plenty But Wants To Do More

| , RacinToday.com Saturday, August 16 2014

Simon Pagenaud is thinking championship these days. (File photo courtesy of the IZOD IndyCar Series)

While Frenchman Simon Pagenaud already has achieved his season goal of winning races he isn’t ready to be counted out as a contender for the 2014 Verizon IndyCar Series championship.

“I think it’s been a good season,” said Pagenaud, of Schmidt Peterson Hamilton Motorsports. “If everything goes accordingly to plan, you should be in the hunt. We won two races, which was part of our plan. The team has been competitive and on top of their game. I’m happy with where we are and I like to chase. I think we’re in a really good position.”

Pagenaud, who finished fifth in points en route to winning Sunoco Rookie of the Year honors in 2012 and third in 2013, will enter Sunday’s ABC Supply Wisconsin 250 at Milwaukee IndyFest fourth in the championship standings.

The race at The Milwaukee Mile will be televised live at 3 p.m. (EDT) by NBCSN (local cable providers, Verizon FiOS 90/590, DirecTV 220, DISH 159 and AT&T UVerse 640/1640) and broadcast by the IMS Radio Network (local affiliates, XM 209 and Sirius 213), the INDYCAR 14 app and www.indycar.com.

Though he trails championship leader Will Power of Team Penske by 64 points, Pagenaud said the deficit isn’t too much to overcome, especially with a maximum of 212 points on the table for the remaining three races.

“If this weekend goes well, and Sonoma doesn’t go well (Aug.24), or even if this weekend doesn’t go well, as long you are within 70 points for the last race you have a shot,” Pagenaud said. “I still feel like I have a really good chance.”

Pagenaud said ending the season on the short oval at Milwaukee, the natural terrain road-course at Sonoma (Calif.) Raceway and the superspeedway at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, Calif., is the perfect way to decide the Verizon IndyCar Series title. But to control his own destiny, Pagenaud has to finish ahead of the competition, even if results on ovals haven’t been the strongest part of his game.

“It’s going to take wins to win (the title),” Pagenaud said. “It’s down to the four of us at the top of the charts (Power, Team Penske’s Helio Castroneves and Ryan Hunter-Reay of Andretti Autosport). The one that’s going to win one of the last three races is going to have the best chance.

“We know Ryan is really strong (at Milwaukee) and the Penske cars are strong at Sonoma. I think we have a really strong race car at Fontana. It’s going to be who makes the least mistakes and scores the most points. At this point, you need to be aggressive and go for it. I love this time of the year, when you’re in the hunt and it’s time to make it count.”

Reigning IndyCar Series champion Scott Dixon and three-time race-winner James Hinchcliffe will add their insight and provide feedback during development of the Dallara IL-15 chassis.

The open-wheel veterans will share testing duties Sept. 5-6 on the 2.439-mile, 14-turn Indianapolis Motor Speedway road-course. The test days will be open to the public from the Turn 2 viewing mounds.

The new Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires car made its on-track debut Aug. 4 at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course with 2013 Verizon IndyCar Series Rookie of the Year Tristan Vautier behind the wheel. Conor Daly, who competed in the 2013 Indianapolis 500 and currently competes in GP2, and Vautier split driving duties Tuesday and Thursday on the 2.5-mile Indianapolis Motor Speedway oval. Additional testing is scheduled during the next weeks on the IMS road-course and The Milwaukee Mile.

Hinchcliffe watched part of Thursday’s test and is anxious to get lap-time. “It’s always fun being part of something new and helping to develop this race car is a cool opportunity,” said Hinchcliffe, of Andretti Autosport. ”I’m a big believer in the Lights Series; racing in Indy Lights made me the driver I am and prepared me to step-up to the Verizon IndyCar Series.” Hinchcliffe was runner-up in the 2010 Indy Lights championship.

“I think this new car is a big step in revitalizing the series,” Hinchcliffe said. “Being in on the ground level and helping to push the series in this direction is something I’m looking forward to.”

Project manager Tony Cotman said the test program, important before full-scale production, is progressing well.

“For us, it’s how the car reacts to changes and trying to validate a lot of the work that’s been done by the manufacturers so when the teams get the car they’re ready to run,” Cotman said. “There’s a lot of calibrating to do on the engine side. We’re in a good place right now.”

The car is powered by a turbocharged, 2.0-liter, four-cylinder AER P63 engine and runs on Cooper tires. Without aid of the chassis set-up dialed in for the 2.5-mile IMS oval, Daly topped the Indy Lights pole-winning lap speed for the 2014 Freedom 100.

“I’m excited to see the new car and the direction the series is taking,” said Dixon, the 2000 Indy Lights champion now driving for Target Chip Ganassi Racing. “It’s a very important stepping stone on the road to the Verizon IndyCar Series. I look forward to driving the new car at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road-course and hope to help with the ongoing development.”

| , RacinToday.com Saturday, August 16 2014
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