1. Sports

Simon Pagenaud's dream drive in IndyCar happening at Team Penske

Simon Pagenaud (22), of France, drives his car through a turn during IndyCar testing at Barber Motorsports  Park, Monday, March 16, 2015, in Birmingham, Ala. Drivers are testing the new aerodynamic packages on their cars. (AP Photo/Butch Dill) ALBD112
Simon Pagenaud (22), of France, drives his car through a turn during IndyCar testing at Barber Motorsports Park, Monday, March 16, 2015, in Birmingham, Ala. Drivers are testing the new aerodynamic packages on their cars. (AP Photo/Butch Dill) ALBD112
Published Mar. 25, 2015

The distance between Indianapolis and France isn't as far as it looks on a map. That's certainly the case for Simon Pagenaud, more than ever.

Pagenaud is an emerging star in the IndyCar series embarking on a new era with powerhouse Penske Racing. The team's legendary status under owner Roger Penske was long since cemented when Pagenaud, 30, began seeing it thanks to images beamed across the Atlantic Ocean.

"When I was 8 I remember telling my family that I wanted to be a race car driver, either Formula One or IndyCar," Pagenaud said. "IndyCar was shown on TV in France so I knew about Penske and I knew about the stars here."

"Being one of these guys now and having achieved a lifetime dream is something quite special."

As Pagenaud prepares for his first season at Penske after three seasons at the Schmidt Peterson Hamilton team, with a debut in Sunday's Grand Prix of St. Petersburg, he said driving for Penske was a longtime goal.

"The transition has been pretty easy, easier than I expected, to be honest," Pagenaud said. "The big, key factor is that my engineer from the last five years (Ben Bretzman) has been hired by Team Penske."

Bretzman was not only with Pagenaud with Schmidt Peterson but also in American Le Mans Series sportscars before that.

"Simon was someone that we've had on our radar since we raced against him in the ALMS program back in 2008 when he drove for (Gil) de Ferran's team," Team Penske president Tim Cindric said. "We felt like with a couple of years under his belt in an IndyCar, he'd be a really good guy for us."

Cindric said Penske hadn't intended to expand to four cars — but, "we thought this was the only opportunity in Simon's career that we'd have a shot at putting him with us."

Michael Andretti and Chip Ganassi have owned four-car IndyCar operations, and Cindric said Penske's ability to do so hinged on timing and opportunity — and snapping up former Andretti Autosport head of racing operations Kyle Moyer and his experience with a four-car team helped too.

"It's really interesting to see the depth of the resources, the technical research that they go into at Team Penske," Pagenaud said. "There's an answer for every question. That's something that really impresses me about Team Penske, there's no unknown quantity."

One known quantity at Penske in 2015 is the pedigree of Pagenaud's three new teammates — Helio Castroneves, who has won the Grand Prix of St. Petersburg and Indianapolis 500 three times each; former Formula One, NASCAR and CART star Juan Montoya (also an Indy 500 champion); and Will Power, the defending series and St. Petersburg champion.

That would seem to be a lot to live up to for a newcomer to the team.

"It's a funny thing, I actually feel a lot less pressure this year than I have in the past," Pagenaud said. "My goal was to get to this point and drive for Roger. So the pressure came from that. Now that I'm here I know I'm not here for no reason, and I know that if they hired me it's because I deserve it."

He earned two victories in each of the past two seasons, including last year's inaugural Grand Prix of Indianapolis. That gave Pagenaud something that Roger Penske — the king of the Indianapolis 500 with 15 victories — doesn't yet own, a win on the road course at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

"Winning there is an incredible feeling. The cars are called IndyCars. So it means everything," Pagenaud said. "I just want to reproduce the win, get a twin brother to that big trophy I have at home."

So that must have been the biggest moment of Pagenaud's career?

"The biggest moment of my career is definitely getting the contract with Team Penske," the Frenchman said. "It's something I have been dreaming about since I was a child."


  1. Tampa Bay Rays manager Kevin Cash and new Japanese slugger Yoshi Tsutsugo, shown during December press conference, will have a lot to talk about during spring training. [CHRIS URSO  |  Times]
    Rays Tales | Learning where Yoshi Tsutsugo and other newcomers best fit will be a priority in Port Charlotte.
  2. With pitching coach Kyle Snyder keeping a close eye on him at Tropicana Field on Friday, Rays prospect Brent Honeywell continues his recovery from Tommy John surgery in 2018 and a fractured arm in 2019. [DIRK SHADD  |  Tampa Bay Times]
    John Romano | Once Tampa Bay’s top pitching prospect, Brent Honeywell has had elbow surgeries in successive seasons. Healthy again, he hopes to be in the majors this summer.
  3. USF coach Brian Gregory's team (8-11, 1-5 American Athletic Conference) is on a four-game skid entering Sunday afternoon's contest at No. 25 Houston. [OCTAVIO JONES  |  Times]
    In a conference teeming with parity, the notion of USF reaching the NCAA Tournament isn’t far-fetched.
  4. Colin Kaepernick, middle, kneels for the national anthem. He hasn't taken a snap in the NFL for three full seasons now.
    "Inspire Change'' campaign is a sanitized version of what Colin Kaepernick tried to get across by kneeling for the national anthem.
  5. Tampa Catholic's Kobe Knox dunks for two  of his 12 points in a 68-64 victory over Berkeley Prep on Friday night. [SCOTT PURKS  |  Special to the Times]
    The Crusaders don’t lead until the fourth quarter, but edge the Bucs 68-64.
  6. NHL All-Star Game, college basketball and more sports on the air.
  7. New USF offensive coordinator Glenn Spencer addresses players during the Bulls' first team meeting of 2020. [Joey Knight]
    The coaches each get a $10,000 bonus for a regular-season win against UCF.
  8. New York Giants quarterback Eli Manning (10) runs on the sideline in the second half of an NFL football game against Philadelphia Eagles on Sunday, Dec. 29, 2019, in East Rutherford, N.J. [ADAM HUNGER  |  AP]
    Manning: “From the very first moment I did it my way.”
  9. NFC cornerback Shaquill Griffin of the Seattle Seahawks gives a thumbs up during Pro Bowl NFL football practice, Wednesday, Jan. 22, 2020, in Kissimmee, Fla. (AP Photo/Steve Luciano) [STEVE LUCIANO  |  AP]
    Third-year Seahawks cornerback is being rewarded for his standout season, and is excited to share it with his family. “We all made the Pro Bowl.”
  10. Tampa Bay Rays pitcher Tyler Glasnow prepares to warm up on the field during a player workout at Tropicana Field on Friday. [DIRK SHADD  |  Tampa Bay Times]
    Discipline for sign-stealing scheme was lax, Rays pitchers say, as participating hitters should have been disciplined as well.