Pagenaud Collects Awards And Cash
Simon Pagenaud was recognized for a breakthrough personal season, along with the 50th for Team Penske in motorsports, during the 2016 Verizon IndyCar Series Championship Celebration in Indianapolis.
Pagenaud, 32, was saluted at Hilbert Circle Theatre on Indianapolis’ Monument Circle for capturing the season championship on the strength of a series-best five race wins and seven Verizon P1 Award pole positions over the course of the 16-race campaign.
Driver of the No. 22 Team Penske Chevrolet, Pagenaud was awarded the $1-million champion’s prize and the Astor Challenge Cup, the trophy presented annually to the series champion since 2011, by Mark Miles, CEO of Hulman & Co., parent of INDYCAR and Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
Pagenaud clinched his first career title with a dominant win in the Sept. 18 season-finale, the GoPro Grand Prix of Sonoma in California. With two weeks to review the significance of his accomplishment, the Frenchman continues to savor the moment.
“It’s obviously a milestone in my career, my lifetime dream come true,” said Pagenaud, who completed his sixth fulltime season and seventh overall racing Indy cars. “There’s obviously more in the future, other goals to reach, but I’ve reached one of the biggest ones I wanted.”
The celebration climaxed an evening of recognition for superlative performances throughout an historic season that included the 100th running of the Indianapolis 500 _ won in upset fashion by rookie Alexander Rossi. The native Californian coasted across the finish line after his No. 98 Andretti Herta Autosport with Curb-Agajanian Honda ran out of fuel on the final lap.
The season also featured returns to Indy car racing’s roots at iconic racetracks Phoenix International Raceway, Road America and Watkins Glen International.
“This has been a phenomenal season,” Miles said. “Historic in a very real sense with the epic 100th Running of the Indy 500, which I think exceeded everybody’s expectations as a monumental event. But then the whole year was great.
“All of our fan metrics are up meaningfully this year. In fact, we’re at like a 55 percent increase in our television audience over the last three years, which very few sports can claim, and all of our other metrics are great. INDYCAR is on a roll, we’ve got the schedule out for next year and people are looking forward to 2017.”
In addition to the championship bonus, Pagenaud was awarded the Jostens Champions Award, a ring to commemorate his title. He also earned the Sunoco Diamond Performance Award for winning the most races this season and the Verizon P1 Award for scoring the most points among pole-winners.
Billy Vincent, chief mechanic for Pagenaud’s car, accepted the Verizon IndyCar Series Chief Mechanic of the Year Award. Jon Bouslog was honored as the Team Manager of the Year as Team Penske collected its record 14th Indy car championship.
“Obviously, Team Penske is one of the most historic race teams in the world,” Pagenaud said. “I’m so proud to be part of this team, so proud that I could bring this championship to Roger. The 50-year anniversary is huge and this is going to go into history. I’m very glad that I could leave a little bit of my legacy, but I’m a very small part in a very big thing.”
Rossi earned the Verizon IndyCar Series Sunoco Rookie of the Year Award after also being named in May as the Sunoco Rookie of the Year for the Indianapolis 500. Another Verizon IndyCar Series rookie, Conor Daly of Dale Coyne Racing, claimed the TAG Heuer “Don’t Crack Under Pressure” Award for advancing the most cumulative places from the start of races to their finish during the season.
Mike Hull, managing director of Chip Ganassi Racing accepted the Firestone “Drive to the Finish” Award on behalf of Charlie Kimball, who completed the most laps of any driver this season (2,066 of a possible 2,070, 99.8 percent). The family of Bryan Clauson, voted INDYCAR Nation Fan Favorite Driver, accepted the award for the three-time Indianapolis 500 starter who was fatally injured in a Midget racing accident in August.
Jim Campbell, Chevrolet’s vice president of performance vehicles and motorsports, accepted the manufacturer’s award on behalf of Chevy, which won 14 of 16 races, 13 poles and led 71 percent of the race laps (1,467 of 2,070). Chevrolet has won the manufacturer’s award every year since Verizon IndyCar Series engine competition resumed in 2012.
Will Power of Team Penske was honored as the second-place finisher in the championship while teammate Helio Castroneves was recognized for finishing third. That pair gave Team Penske a sweep of the top three positions in the point standings.
“Tonight is really a tour de force for Team Penske,” Miles said. “You can’t finish 1-2-3 if you don’t beat 4-5-6 through 21 or 22. It was a great year of racing for Simon and for Roger Penske in his 50th year in racing. It’s just an amazing accomplishment.”
2016 Verizon IndyCar Series Award Winners
Championship driver (Astor Challenge Cup): Simon Pagenaud
Jostens Championship Driver Award (ring): Simon Pagenaud
Championship team (Astor Challenge Cup): Team Penske
Championship team sponsors: Menards, PPG Automotive Refinish, Hewlett Packard Enterprise
Championship team manager: Jon Bouslog
Chief Mechanic of the Year Award: Billy Vincent
Sunoco Diamond Performance Award: Simon Pagenaud
Sunoco Rookie of the Year Award: Alexander Rossi
TAG Heuer “Don’t Crack Under Pressure” Award: Conor Daly
Firestone “Drive to the Finish” Award: Charlie Kimball
Verizon P1 Award: Simon Pagenaud
Second-place championship driver: Will Power
Second-place championship team: Team Penske
Third-place championship driver: Helio Castroneves
Third-place championship team: Team Penske
Manufacturers Championship: Chevrolet
INDYCAR Nation Fan Favorite Driver: Bryan Clauson