How incredible would it be if Simon Pagenaud could go from the hot seat at the beginning of the season to a champion at the end? That’s the reality right now.
Pagenaud, entered the Month of May at Indy looking like 2019 would be the last year in his ride with Team Penske. The way the wording came out when Pagenaud swept the Month of May at Indy as well as what Alexander Rossi had to say when he re-upped with Andretti this past summer confirms that.
Heading into May, it appeared that Penske wanted Rossi to replace Pagenaud for 2020 and beyond. Pagenaud, just wasn’t competing enough prior to that.
See, while he had 14 top 10 finishes in 2018, only four of those landed him in the top five. All the while, Josef Newgarden and Will Power combined to win six times including both races in the Month of May.
Out of his last 21 Indy Car races, Pagenaud had four finishes in the top five. He led just 31 laps in total last year as well.
But, Long Beach is where Pagenaud reminded us that he didn’t go anywhere. He qualified in the Fast Six and pointed to the quality of the field now and that it’s just so hard to get things completely right anymore. He noted, he didn’t go anywhere in the meantime and that we will hear from him soon.
How about the next race?
Pagenaud, chased Scott Dixon down in the final laps in the rain at Indy to win the INDYCAR Grand Prix. It was his first victory since the 2017 season finale. Then, he won the pole for the Indianapolis 500 the next weekend. A week later? He led 116 of the 200 laps in a thrilling Indianapolis 500 victory.
That netted him a contract extension.
A few races after though, he found out that the Indy 500 hangover is real. Pagenaud, finished sixth in Belle Isle 1 and was involved in a crash in Belle Isle 2. He was sixth again the next race in Texas and ninth in Road America. All of that Indy magic was vanished.
But, he got the rest that he needed and was able to get recharged. From then on, no one has scored as many points as Pagenaud. Over the last six races, he’s finished in the top five in all of them but two. Even that one was a sixth place result in Mid-Ohio and seventh in Portland. He’s had 10 finishes of sixth or better in his last 13 races. In his prior 20 starts, he had six.
For this weekend, Pagenaud is keeping it simple – they’re in it to win it. This is a chance for him to be full on attack mode in search of his second championship in four years.
“What a season it’s been,” said Pagenaud. “We won the Indy 500, and the DXC Technology Chevy team brought home a few more wins along the way. Now it all comes down to the championship race at Laguna.
“This is my favorite time in racing — it’s crunch time. I love Laguna Seca. It’s a beautiful racetrack where I have done well in the past. Our strategy is very simple — we are going into it, to win it! It’s going to be full attack mode all weekend. The goal is to be the hunted so we can control our destiny. It’s going to be an exciting one with the championship contenders because we’re all going to put everything on the line. I can’t wait!”
That’s why this season would be the best of his career. From going from no job security to winning the Indy 500 and title in the same season.