Pagenaud Goes Out Clubbing In Indianapolis

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Tuesday, May 28 2019
Indinapolis 500 winner Simon Pagenaud’s celebration continued Monday at The Speedway. (Photos courtesy of INDYCAR)

By John Sturbin | Senior Writer

INDIANAPOLIS – Simon Pagenaud awoke after two hours of sleep Monday morning as Team Penske’s latest Indianapolis 500 champion, and a guy in need of a new smartphone.

I don’t have my phone anymore. It’s just blown-up,” Pagenaud said during the traditional Monday winner’s presser after yet another photo shoot at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. “Yeah, I woke up, about 700 texts. I haven’t checked my emails because it was just blown-up. It’s quite phenomenal. Had a lot of messages from friends. Obviously, when everybody woke up, it was kind of a shock. Obviously, a lot of messages from all my friends in America and other countries.”

Actually, a singular theme emerged from the texts sent by a handful of former Indy 500 champions that Pagenaud was able to sift through in the aftermath of his thrilling victory over Alexander Rossi of Andretti Autosport in the race’s 103rd edition.

“Well, it was pretty cool,” said Pagenaud, a 35-year-old native of Montmorillon, France. “Last night, Rick Mears was one of the first to text me, ‘Welcome to the club.’ Helio (Castroneves) obviously. T.K. (Tony Kanaan) when I left for the parade lap at the end. Takuma (Sato), ‘Welcome to the club.’ I didn’t really get it then. Gil de Ferran last night was in tears, calling, sending me messages, ‘Welcome to the club.’ Again, Will Power. Dario Franchitti this morning sent me a message.

“It’s amazing, all these guys I looked up to, ‘Welcome to the club.’ When you accomplish your dream, it’s phenomenal. It will be great, when I have kids, ‘Hey, I did this!’ When they have kids, ‘Hey, grandpa did whatever.’ Just great to be able to think that. Quite frankly, I’m not quite done with my career. I just turned 35. I have more than a decade ahead of me. So I’ll be here for a while.”

Frenchman Simon Pagenaud wraps himself in the Tricolour.

Pagenaud led seven times for a race-high 116 laps in his bright yellow No. 22 Team Penske Chevrolet to become the first pole-sitter to prevail since Castroneves in 2009. Pagenaud took the lead for the final time on Lap 199 of the 200-lapper around the 2.5-mile oval en route to a margin of victory of 0.2086-seconds.

Pagenaud’s first Indy 500 win was the record-extending 18th for team-owner Roger Penske, who was celebrating the 50th anniversary of his first Indy 500 entry with the late Mark Donohue.

The accolades continued Monday night, when Pagenaud was handed a check for $2,669,529 from an overall purse of $13,090,536 during the Victory Celebration at the JW Marriott in downtown Indianapolis.

“It’s all so sweet. Such great emotions, being able to savor the biggest race in the world, it’s quite amazing,” Pagenaud said. “This morning, I woke up after two hours of sleep, going to the photos, no bags under my eyes surprisingly. It’s the sweetest photos you can do with your team, with your family. It’s great to be able to take that moment with them and just keep the memories because it’s once in a lifetime, these kind of experience. Obviously, super-proud.

“This place is mythical. When you win, you’re part of the history. I just feel super-honored. It doesn’t feel real because I don’t hold myself up high like that, I don’t believe in myself as somebody special. Doesn’t feel right to say it even. Pretty cool. Pretty cool there.”

Pagenaud said his jammed post-race schedule left him no time to watch a replay of the race. “That’s what I usually do,” Pagenaud said. “I go home always, I study the race, I look at it. If it’s a win, it’s obviously more enjoyable. Really want to watch this one and take the time for it.

“I have other duties right now. I have to represent. I’m very proud to be an Indy 500 champion. I’ll do my best, like I do in the race car, give it my 100 percent, be the best I can to represent you guys, represent the sport. To be honest, it’s the biggest spectacle in racing.”

In addition to having his facial likeness added to the BorgWarner Trophy, Pagenaud learned that he and that iconic hardware have been booked for an overseas junket.

Simon Pagenaud and the Borg-Warner Trophy.

“I’m very lucky with Fred Lissdale, the CEO of BorgWarner, is French,” Pagenaud said. ”He said to me today, said it several times, ‘We’re going to take the BorgWarner to France, celebrate there.’ That’s a phenomenal thing to do. I’m very thankful he wants to do that.

“BorgWarner is phenomenal for the sport. A trophy that exists since 1933. To think I’m going to be on it, we’re going to take it to France, probably the first time _ must be the first time it’s ever going to happen. Again, I’m very blessed. That would be really cool to take it to the Champs-Elysées, celebrate with French people. We’ll see what happens.”

Pagenaud’s victory extended another streak, in that the last five Indy 500 winners have hailed from five different countries _ Juan Pablo Montoya, Colombia, 2015; Rossi, USA, 2016; Takuma Sato, Japan, 2017; Will Power, Australia, 2018 and Pagenaud, France, 2019.

Power and Pagenaud, in fact, each swept the last two Month of May events for Team Penske _ the INDYCAR Grand Prix on the track’s 2.439-mile/14-turn road-course and the 500.

Pagenaud ended a personal 23-race winless streak May 11 with a victory in the INDYCAR Grand Prix. He followed that by qualifying on-pole for the Indy 500 during the Fast Nine Shootout on May 19, the record-extending 18th P1 Indy 500 start for Team Penske. Pagenaud also topped the speed chart during the May 20 post-qualifying practice, during which he correctly tabbed Rossi as potentially his fiercest race-day competitor.

“We saw one of the greatest races I’ve seen in many, many years,” said Penske, 82. “I came back here as an entry in 1969 and to see the investment…I think we’ve all got to think about this continued investment in this track. It’s safer, it’s better and it’s a world-wide phenomenon when you think about what happens every year.

“Simon, the commitment when you walk through the door at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, I’ve never seen anything like it. It was just a terrific day for all of us. There’s no question to be able to stand up here and represent our team…but we have some 60,000 people in our company and I can tell that racing and this brand has been built by coming to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway year after year and executing. So many years of me going to the races _ I say it’s my fishing trip and my golf game on the weekend. But I don’t have any clubs, I don’t know how to fish.”

With double points available Sunday, his 13th career series win vaulted Pagenaud into the championship lead by a single marker over teammate Josef Newgarden, the 2017 NTT IndyCar Series champion who finished fourth.

“I think it’s back to business,” said Pagenaud, the 2016 series champion. “I’ve got to focus on the championship. It’s been my goal the whole year. I’ve said it coming in, that I want to fight for the championship this year again. I want to do it again. I’ve done it once. I can do it twice. It’s just a matter of putting everything together, being consistent.

“I think it’s a year where you have to be consistently up-front. Obviously we already have two wins. Realistically you want a minimum of three to have a good chance for the championship. We’re almost right there. But you need consistency in the end.

“I think we’re ahead of the program. The cars are behaving really well. It’s improving. It’s going to keep improving throughout the season as we go through. I’ve got a lot of expectation. Certainly feel like we have everything going in the right direction right now with Team Penske. The development is good. My teammates, we’re pushing each other really well.

“It’s fun. I enjoy my job more than ever. I’ve got so much drive. My motivation is the highest it’s ever been. I’m hungry. I want to win. Now I’m free. I can really focus on winning and going forward.”

A self-described “car guy,” Pagenaud added he was anxious to get his hands on another traditional spoil of victory at IMS, the 2019 Chevrolet Corvette C7 Grand Sport Pace Car. “I’m looking forward to getting a Corvette. That’s pretty cool,” Pagenaud said. “I get a Corvette, wine color, burgundy. It was meant to be I guess.”

Rossi, a 27-year-old native of Nevada City, Calif., earned $759,179 in the No. 27 NAPA Auto Parts Honda. He led five times for 22 laps, continuing a streak of leading in all four of his career Indy 500 starts.

“We kind of just ran our race and did what we needed to do, not without adversity, which created entertainment for you-all,” said Rossi, alluding to a pair of extended pit stops due to a refueling problem and a late-race positional battle with the lapped car of veteran Oriol Servia of Arrow Schmidt Peterson Motorsports.

Rossi said horsepower ultimately was the difference between Pagenaud and himself during the final dash to the checkered flag. “I was having to try so hard for those kind of final 12 laps after the final restart to get back in touch with him,” Rossi said, “and when we finally got the run it was two laps to go and I knew I was not great. It wasn’t meant to be.

“Nonetheless it was a fantastic race by really everyone. It was a hell of a show. What the Hulman-George Family has created is the greatest race, the greatest sporting event in the world. It’s something I’ve fallen in love with and that’s why the emotion was there. I was so upset that potentially an opportunity you never know is going to come back again…that’s where the fire comes from. This race means the world to us, the teams and partners, and it’s a huge pleasure to be a part of it.”

Popular Japanese ace Sato, the 2017 Indianapolis 500 winner, earned $540,454 for finishing third in the No. 30 Mi-Jack/Panasonic Honda fielded by Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing.

Newgarden earned $462,904 for finishing fourth in the No. 2 Shell V-Power Nitro Plus Team Penske Chevrolet. Rounding out the top-five was 2014 series champion Power in the No. 12 Verizon 5G Team Penske Chevrolet, who earned $444,554 as “The Captain” placed three cars in the top-five.

Meanwhile, Santino Ferrucci earned $435,404 for his seventh-place finish after starting 23rd in the No. 19 Cly-Del Manufacturing Honda fielded by Dale Coyne Racing, including $50,000 for being named Rookie of the Year. Ferrucci, who led one lap, was the highest-finishing rookie among the six drivers making their first Indianapolis 500 starts this year.

“To be honest with you, it finally sank in,” said Ferrucci, a native of Woodbury, Conn, who will turn 21 on May 31. “You can only win Rookie of the Year once. You race Tony Kanaan out of the pits, he’s won here. You’re racing Ryan Hunter-Reay, he’s won here. You’re racing guys like Scott Dixon, a champion. You’re racing all these great guys and taking it all in, lap-by-lap. I’m so happy to be here.”

Ferrucci is competing domestically this year after climbing the Formula One career ladder as a development driver with American-owned Haas F1 Team the last three seasons.

The Indianapolis 500 purse consists of Indianapolis Motor Speedway and NTT IndyCar Series awards, plus other designated and special awards.

Fans wishing to renew tickets for the 104th Indy 500 on Sunday, May 24, 2020 can do so by visiting IMS.com/renew.

TV viewership of the 103rd Indianapolis 500, the first broadcast on NBC, delivered an 11 percent increase vs. 2018, its best household rating in three years. The event also was NBC Sports’ most-streamed INDYCAR race, according to Fast National data from Nielsen and digital data from Adobe Analytics.

The “Greatest Spectacle in Racing” averaged a Total Audience Delivery (TAD) of 5.446-million viewers Sunday afternoon across NBC, NBCSports.com and the NBC Sports app (12:43-4:03 p.m. ET), up 11 percent vs. the 2018 race (TV-only 4.913-million, ABC). Viewership peaked in the final quarter-hour (3:45-4 p.m. ET) when 6.700-million viewers tuned in to watch Team Penske’s Simon Pagenaud outhustle Andretti Autosports’ Alexander Rossi at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

NBC’s TV-only viewership averaged 5.414-million viewers and delivered a 3.43 household rating, the best for an Indy 500 since the landmark 100th edition won by Rossi as a rookie in 2016 (3.88).

The Indy 500 also stands as the most-watched Sunday afternoon sporting event on NBC in more than four months, since the NFL Wild Card game between the Philadelphia Eagles and Chicago Bears on Jan. 6 (36.0-million viewers). It also was the most-watched sporting event of the day across all TV.

Digitally, the 103rd Indianapolis 500 now is NBC Sports’ most-streamed INDYCAR race, setting records with 161,000 uniques, 8.4-million live minutes and an Average Minute Audience (AMA) of 31,700 viewers.

Indianapolis led all markets with a 10.98 HH rating. Dayton, Ohio (9.77), Sacramento-Stockton, Calif. (7.97), Cincinnati (7.34), and Fort Myers-Naples, Fla. (7.30) rounded out the top-five for live coverage in the afternoon. Those markets were followed by West Palm Beach, Fla. (6.94), Louisville (6.77), Columbus, Ohio (6.36), Richmond, Va. (6.34) and Tulsa, Okla. (6.18).

Live coverage of the Indy 500 was blacked out-in Indianapolis. The rating above is for the replay shown in primetime. Ratings for all other markets reflect live afternoon coverage.

The 2019 season is the first of a new media rights agreement announced in March 2018 between sanctioning body INDYCAR and NBC Sports Group in which NBC Sports acquired the exclusive rights to all NTT IndyCar Series races, qualifying and practice sessions, and Indy Lights races across its numerous platforms. Prior to this season, NBC Sports only had cable rights to a portion of the season.

NBC Sports has presented six INDYCAR races this season _ two on NBC and four on NBC Sports Network. Those six races have averaged a TAD of 1.717 viewers, up 363 percent vs. NBC Sports’ first six races of 2018, all on NBCSN (371,000 TAD). All NBC and NBCSN races are live streamed on NBCSports.com and the NBC Sports app.

The two NBC races _ the sixth annual INDYCAR Grand Prix and the 103rd Indy 500 _ have combined to average a TAD of 3.722-million viewers, up 15 percent vs. last year (TV-only 3.224-million, ABC).

Earlier this month, the INDYCAR Grand Prix from Indianapolis Motor Speedway _ the first NTT IndyCar Series race to air on the NBC broadcast network _ averaged a Total Audience Delivery (TAD) of 1.071- million viewers, making it the most-watched INDYCAR Grand Prix in five years.

The four races on NBCSN this season have averaged a Total Audience Delivery (TAD) of nearly 400,000 viewers (397,000), up 21 percent vs. its first four races of 2018 (327,000) and NBCSN’s second-best start to a season in eight years.

NTT IndyCar Series point standings after the 103rd running of the Indianapolis 500, the sixth of 17 races on the 2019 schedule:

1, Simon Pagenaud, Team Penske, 250; 2, Josef Newgarden, Team Penske, 249; 3, Alexander Rossi, Andretti Autosport, 228; 4, (tie) Scott Dixon, Chip Ganassi Racing, 203 and Takuma Sato, Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing, 203; 6, Will Power, Team Penske, 184; 7, Ryan Hunter-Reay, Andretti Autosport, 157; 8, James Hinchcliffe, Arrow Schmidt Peterson Motorsports, 145; 9, Spencer Pigot, Ed Carpenter Racing, 133; 10, Santino Ferrucci, Dale Coyne Racing, 129.

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Tuesday, May 28 2019
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