Pagenaud Joins Meyer Shank Racing

From Meyer Shank Racing:

Pataskala, Ohio (27 September 2021) – INDYCAR SERIES Champion and winner of the 2019 Indianapolis 500 Simon Pagenaud will join Meyer Shank Racing (MSR) for the 2022 NTT INDYCAR SERIES Championship driving the No. 60 AutoNation / SiriusXM Honda. Pagenaud will team with four-time Indianapolis 500 champion Helio Castroneves in the No. 06 AutoNation / SiriusXM Honda.

Pagenaud will be joining MSR which has grown its presence in the series continuously since it’s series debut in 2017 with a one-off entry in the 2017 Indianapolis 500. In five short years, MSR won the prestigious 2021 Indianapolis 500 with Castroneves. The 2022 season will mark the first two-car full-time campaign for MSR as it will field two Indianapolis 500 winners in the team’s hunt for the 2022 INDYCAR championship.

“Next year will be a big year for MSR and I think we have a very strong lineup of drivers between Simon and Helio,” said Mike Shank. “We have built this program every year, growing with our partners and working to have all the ingredients we need to be competitive. Our Indianapolis 500 win was a big breakthrough, and we are looking forward to having a consistently competitive program that will have the chance to fight for wins and podiums no matter where we go and I think this lineup will help us do that.”

“This is such an exciting time in my career,” said Pagenaud. “MSR has proven it is a high-quality organization when they won the Indianapolis 500 and pairing Helio and me together will help our team in 2022 and beyond. I’m really looking forward to this new challenge.”

Pagenaud claimed the 2019 Indianapolis 500 victory with a convincing run out front after starting from the pole. He was the first polesitter to win the Indianapolis 500 since Helio Castroneves in 2009. Pagenaud also scored a strong third-place podium finish in the 2021 edition of the race.

Pagenaud also won the 2016 INDYCAR Championship and has 15 wins, 14 poles and 37 podium finishes since making his series debut in 2011.

Beyond his success in INDYCAR, Pagenaud has also shown strength in sports car competition, collecting podium finishes in the most iconic IMSA SportsCar Championship races. Pagenaud finished second in the 2021 Rolex 24 at Daytona and collected a third place finish in the 2017 and 2020 Petit Le Mans. He also participated in some prestigious European endurance races, the most iconic being the 2011 24 Hours of Le Mans where he missed victory by a very close margin.

Before becoming a champion in America, Pagenaud competed in Europe for several years, winning the ‘Volant Elf’, a young drivers’ competition, in 2001, which marked the start of his career. Until 2006 he moved through the ranks of some of the most renowned young drivers’ formulae in Europe before deciding to pursue his career in the United States.

Meyer Shank Racing will head into the 2022 race season equipped with two-full season INDYCAR entries with the returning support from primary sponsors AutoNation and SiriusXM as well as continued partnerships with CAP fixtures, Rocky Fork Co. and Roberts Service Group.

No Added Pressure for Drivers in Contract Year

Photo of Will Power by Chris Jones, Indycar

Will Power and Ryan Hunter-Reay are beginning contract years in the NTT Indycar Series. Simon Pagenaud may be in a contract year, but he side-stepped the question last week. All three drivers plan to keep driving the way they always have and not worry about 2022. The consensus is that there is always pressure to perform, regardless of their contract status.

Ryan Hunter-Reay Photo by Chris Owens, Indycar

Hunter-Reay had a frustrating year in 2020. It began with a car that wouldn’t fire on the grid at the opening race in Texas. The Andretti Autosport driver did manage a 10th place finish in the season standings, however. Hunter-Reay usually finds a way into the top 10 despite problems during a race. Last year was a bit more of a struggle than most years.

Looking ahead to 2021 Hunter-Reay said, “Yeah, definitely I’m looking forward to that kind of makeup,what feels like a makeup season almost. Hopefully we can do that, barring any variants of COVID that might derail that.”

As for extra pressure coming from a one year deal, Hunter-Reay said that he approaches every race as if it could be his last in the car.

“My whole career has been that way. It’s been, Hey, here is your opportunity. Get in the car, we’ll let you know if you’re going to be in the car the next race. That’s how it always has been for me. That’s why I’ve always had that grab-it-by-the-neck mentality. Even when I had a three-year deal, if I had a bad weekend, it was the end of the year. I have to make sure I’m performing next weekend, otherwise somebody with a big smile is getting ready to jump into my seat. It’s just part of my mentality, part of my makeup. No, that’s how I’ve been operating for 20 years, man. Right at home for me.”

Hunter-Reay has stiff competition from his own team. Alexander Rossi and Colton Herta should be fighting for the championship and possibly a win at the Indianapolis 500.

Power Hopes for Better Start

Will Power feels the need to have a better start to the season. 2019 and 2020 both began with a series of issues that hampered his run for the title. He has still managed to win twice in each of the past two years and add to his career pole mark. He is inching closer to Mario Andretti’s career pole total. Power goes into 2021 with same attitude he does every year.

“…same effort that I put in because I had put so much effort in every time. I so badly want to win. Yep, same fire, internal fire burning. Just do as I do, do obviously my best.”

Any extra pressure seems to come from the poor starts of the last two years.

“It actually does feel a little bit that way, youknow, considering we’ve started the last four seasons in a really bad way. It certainly isn’t speed that’s the issue. It’s our bad days are just too bad. Our bad days are DNFs and multiple laps down. They’re not like a 10th place or a seventh place, and that’s our problem. The speed is certainly not. Winning is certainly not. Consistently,whether it’s mistakes on pit lane or mistakes by me, you just — we have to have a solid beginning to the season.”

Like Hunter-Reay, Power will compete with Team Penske teammates-Josef Newgarden, Scott McLaughlin, and Simon Pagenaud for points and podiums.

Pagenaud Looks for Better Qualifying, Race Results

Simon Pagenaud Photo by Chris Owens, Indycar

Simon Pagenaud had a frustrating season in 2020. Poor qualifying forced him to play catch up during races. he did get a victory in Iowa race 1 after starting last, and his eighth place final standing seems like a decent year. It was not good enough for Pagenaud. What went wrong?

“…a combination of things that didn’t work out the way I wanted. Obviously the car change made a big difference. The lack of testing made a big impact on my season.”

Team Penske has been able to test this pre-season and that should make a big difference in Pagenaud’s year. As for pressure to keep his job in 2022?

“…my personal opinion is just go out there and do the best you can, race hard and be in the moment. The contracts will take care of themselves when they do.It’s too early to tell anyway. But yeah, I always race as hard as I can. My motto is having no regrets ever, so I work hard, and I want to have no regrets. So if I have no regrets, there’s no reason it shouldn’t continue.”

Quick Thoughts- Iowa 250 Race 1

Photo: Pagenaud at Road America last week

Last night should remove any doubts about the aeroscreen. It saved Rinus VeeKay’s life and probably kept Marcus Ericsson from serious injury.

Herat’s crash is one of the worst I have ever seen. Thank goodness for the aeroscreen and that the SAFER barrier at Iowa is in front of the fence. We could have seen another Wickens type incident otherwise.

A driver going from starting last to victory lane is quite an accomplishment, but Simon Pagenaud has had lots of practice this year. Last night he improved eight places in the first 25 laps. His average starting position through last night was 17th. His average finishing position is 6.2

Pit strategy played a big part of the outcome. Once again, the timing of the yellow thwarted some great strategy by Takuma Sato, Oliver Askew, and Pato O’Ward.

Up until last night I have been praising the newer drivers. Yesterday was a big day for the newer teams. Carlin, a single car entry, won the pole with Conor Daly, who finished eighth. Arrow McLaren SP, with  Askew getting his first podium and O’Ward finishing fourth, had a shot at the win. Don’t count them out tonight either.

It is hard to believe that it took five races for a Penske car or a Chevy to win this season.

Askew’s third place finish gives him a top 10 and a top 5 in the two oval races to date.

I’m hearing that Andretti will repair Herat’s car, and VeeKay will go to the backup. A badly damaged car in race 1 is a risk on a double header weekend.

Dixon”s try for career win 50 fell less than half a second short. Like Pagenaud, he started near the rear of the field and will do so again tonight. The task might be a bit more challenging with Josef Newgarden and Will Power on the front row.

It was a great race. Once again, the television schedule didn’t work out in Indycar’s favor. This would have been a really nice one to have had on NBC.

I’ll be back with tonight’s starting lineup and practice results later.

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Pagenaud Strategy Leads to Motegi Win; Two Straight for 500 Winner

Some quick thoughts about today’s race:

Simon Pagenaud has the oval pit stop strategy figured out.

It’s too bad the NTT Indycar Series doesn’t still race at Motegi. I had forgotten what a great track that is.

That was a great race. There were passes for the lead, pit strategy, and on track drama which had a hand in the outcome.

Even though it was a sim race, I loved seeing Robert Wickens on pole and leading a lap or two. Even on this platform he has Will Power’s number in qualifying.

Oliver Askew has at least two fewer friends in the paddock this afternoon.

Two more podium spots for Team Penske gives them I believe seven of the twelve podium places through the four races.

Scott Dixon is not a regular on sim racing, but he seems to have figured it out rather quickly. He had a great drive today. I also liked his homage to former teammate Dario Franchitti’s flying finish at Kentucky in 2007.

Kyle Busch had a decent Indycar debut with a 13th place finish after starting in the back.

Dixon may have won with a better final pit stop.

Power did a great job hanging on for third without a right front end plate. I’m not sure how that would work out in a real race.

Jack Harvey had a decent day. He qualified well and led some laps.

I will post the final standings when they are available.

I hope to have a post up tomorrow. On Monday I begin the move to Summer Headquarters and I hope to be up and running again by next Thursday. This means there will be lots of big Indycar news Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday.

Newgarden: Aeroscreen Will Affect Setups

In a teleconference this morning Josef Newgardenand Simon Pagenaud agree the 2020 season will be interesting as teams  look to figure out setups with  the aeroscreen. Newgarden said that it seems to affect setups differently at different tracks.  He said the first team that gets a handle on how to work with it best will have an advantage.

“… it’s very different, I would say. It’s reacting differently to different tracks so far. I’ve had a taste of it at Richmond, COTA and Sebring. Those are all pretty different places. So you get these small characteristic differences everywhere. Sebring was quite interesting. It was very fun I think for all three of us yesterday to sample that and see what it was all about. But the moral of the story is I think there will be definite differences with the car. It’s going to want certain things from a setup standpoint, certain things from a driving standpoint. We’re not the same as 2019. I think it always brings an opportunity for us to try to figure that out quicker than the rest of the pack. We’re working pretty hard as a team right now to make sure we come out of the gates the best with the new opportunity and try to get on top of it the quickest. It’s always fun to have that. As a driver you like change, the opportunity to try and shine at something new. Yeah, we just need to make sure we’re on top of it when we get to St. Pete next week.”

Simon Pagenaud, commenting on Scott McLaughlin, who may drive in as many as eight races for Team Penske this season:

“Scott got the first taste of it in 2020. I must say he did a really good job. He’s obviously a great champion. You don’t win the V8 Supercars champion twice without being an incredible driver. It’s expected for him to jump into anything and be fast and end up understanding the series. I’m as excited as you are. First of all, having champions come from other series for INDYCAR is really good. It just shows the interest. It just shows that the series is on the upward trend. I’m excited to see him come in, do a few races this year. I think he’s going to bring fresh for us blood, a new perspective. That could be very interesting for our development, as well. I’m looking forward to it. He’s a great guy, so far it’s been a great relationship starting. We’ll see how he goes. I hope he does well. I think it’s going to be awesome for us to gather more fans.”

Jimmie Johnson to Test for Arrow McLaren SP

Seven time NASCAR champion Jimmie Johnson had a sat fitting at the Arrow McLaren SP shop in Indianapolis today. He will test in the team’s Indycar next month at Barber Motorsports Park. There has been talk that Johnson would like to run some Indycar road and street course races in 2021 following his retirement from NASCAR after this season. He currently has made no commitments to running a race next year.

Johnson’s Tweet:

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I think it would be amazing if Johnson and Fernando Alonso drove in the same race next season.

On the Way!

The Indianapolis Motor Speedway began mailing tickets for the 104th running of the Indianapolis 500 today. Receiving the blue envelope is one of the most exciting days of the year.

 

Here It Is: The Ticket for the 104th Running of the Indianapolis 500

The ticket for the May 24 Indianapolis 500 was unveiled today by 2019 winner Simon Pagenaud. It is a nice, simple design with a photo of Pagenaud drinking the milk in Victory Lane. I’m glad it wasn’t a picture of him spilling milk on his head. That’s a “tradition” I can live without.

Of course, Simon did not leave his dog Norman out. He received his own ticket.

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I think I like this ticket better. Is it too late to make this one the actual ticket?

Revealing the ticket usually means tickets will be mailed soon, though today seems a bit early for that. Not that I wouldn’t mind receiving it now.

Back later with more on the Rolex 24.

Hybrids, Rumors, Trophies on Vacation

Just a few notes and comments today:

Reaction has been mixed, to put it mildly, about the new hybrid technology coming to Indycar in 2022. I still think it’s a good thing for the series. Eventually every racing series will employ some form of hybrid technology. From what I’ve seen, the Indycar version will not be full blown electricity. The engines will still be loud, and, I hope, faster. I’m hoping that the use of the KERS system for push to pass limits the ability of the lead driver to defend. I would rather have drivers pass on pure speed and ability. Those days may be gone for the most part.

We won’t know for several months what the new system will look like or what it will do on the cars. Let’s just wait and see what happens. If it opens the door to a third OEM, or even better, a second chassis, I’m all for it. As Paul Dalbey pointed out yesterday in his post on The Field of 33,  first year costs  may affect car counts, especially at the Indianapolis 500. You can read his post at https://wordpress.com/read/feeds/92400962.

The McLaren Puzzle

If you thought Silly season ended with Alexander Rossi and Honda staying with Andretti Autosport, think again. The latest talk is that McLaren is looking to join Arrow Schmidt Peterson. My understanding is that the team would switch to Chevy. This deal would not add cars to the grid. There are questions that make this deal iffy. ASPM has another year on its contract with Honda.  James Hinchcliffe’s contract runs through the end of 2020.  If Hinchcliffe drives a Chevy, he also loses the Honda commercials.

We know contracts can be bought out. As we’ve seen recently with drivers, contracts aren’t ironclad. Gabby Chaves and Pato O’Ward are two recent examples. There are lots of things in play here. Pop some popcorn, sit back and watch.

My opinion is that McLaren is cutting corners trying to enter Indycar. Rather than establishing a team through a technical alliance with another team, they are trying to buy a team instead. It seems the lessons of May have not gotten through to them. If they do become part of Schmidt organization, I hope they are willing to listen to the people there who know what they are doing this time.

There is also talk of Marcus Ericsson moving to Carlin and Felipe Nasr, who recently tested with ASPM replacing him. Nasr is a former F1 driver who is doing very well driving for Action Express in IMSA.

Pagenaud Reveals His Borg Warner Likeness…in France?

It appears another Indianapolis 500 tradition has gone by the wayside. In the past, the new 500 winner’s face on the Borg Warner trophy was unveiled at an early December ceremony at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Museum. Yesterday Simon Pagenaud’s image on the trophy was revealed in Paris.  I hope this is a one time occurrence.

The December event brought some attention to the race and the series in what is a slow news period for the NTT Indycar Series and the Speedway. I wonder if IMS is still planning something for December. The unveiling was the night before the PRI show opens at the Convention Center in downtown Indianapolis. It was a nice lead-in to the show.

 

I’ll be back in a couple days to look at the 1958 Indianapolis 500 program.

Pagenaud Continues Title Quest with Iowa Pole

Photo: Kyle McInnes

Josef Newgarden and Alexander Rossi can hear the footsteps louder now. They faded for a bit after May, but are now coming faster. Simon Pagenaud won the pole for tomorrow night’s Iowa 300, beating his Penske teammates who will start second and third. It is Pagenaud’s third pole of the season and second consecutive top staring spot.

Pagenaud snatched the pole from teammate Will Power, who posted a two, lap time of 35.8418 seconds. Pagenaud then completed his two laps in 35.7455 seconds. Newgarden was the last driver to attempt to qualify. He appeared to have trouble negotiating turn 4 and will start third Saturday.

The three Penske cars were the only cars in the 35 second range. Takuma Sato in the Rahal Letterman Lanigan Honda was the only driver besides the top three to post a single lap less than 18 seconds. Sato had just taken the provisional  pole from James Hinchcliffe before the first Penske car took the track.

Hinchcliffe had claimed the top spot from his Arrow Schmidt Peterson teammate Marcus Ericsson. Seven drivers failed to top Ericsson before Hinchcliffe’s run. Graham Rahal and Ryan Hunter-Reay eventually topped Ericsson’s time ahead of Sato qualified. Hinchcliffe, the defending race winner, starts fifth tomorrow.

Andretti Cars Lack Outright Speed

Alexander Rossi starts sixth and Ryan Hunter-Reay rolls off ninth tomorrow. Andretti Autosport has seven victories at Iowa but trail the Penske cars by half a second. The good news is the Hondas get better fuel mileage than the Chevys, although tire degradation may prevent them from taking advantage of that edge.

The caution periods will need to play out in Rossi’s favor for him to have a shot at his third win of the year.

Notes

Pagenaud said qualifying was “very intense… I’m still shaking, but that’s what Indycar is all about.”

He said he is “living in the moment” this year, focusing on the next task once the last one is finished.

The cars from Ed Carpenter Racing qualified a disappointing 17th ( Ed Carpenter) and 19th ( Spencer Pigot).

Indycar has a final practice session at 7 pm Eastern time tonight.

Qualifying Results

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Iowa 300 Qualifying- Quick Thoughts

Simon Pagenaud is definitely back in the title chase now. He now has three poles and three wins. The bonus points he is accumulating are helping him gain ground quickly.

The title could come down to whoever wins their fourth race of the year first.

Josef Newgarden missed turn 4 on his first qualifying lap. He seemed to brake and turn a hard right. That is the moment he lost a chance at the pole.

It was an interesting qualifying session with several drivers at the top throughout the session.

Carlin Racing had a respectable qualifying effort with Sage Karam in 14th and Conor Daly in 16th.

Pagenaud said tire degradation will be the key to the race tomorrow.

The polesitter has never won at Iowa. That is not a reason to discount Pagenaud’s chances tomorrow.

It was nice seeing the two Arrow Schmidt Peterson cars at the top of the pylon for a few minutes.

Team Penske looks formidable this weekend.

The next Chevy after the Penskes in the top three spots is Tony Kanaan in 13th.

The starters in fourth through ninth could win. Fuel strategy will be crucial for the Honda cars.

Several cars had lots of understeer.

A full story on qualifying will follow in a bit.

Final practice for the Iowa 300 is from 7-8 EDT.