2015 INDYCAR Driver Review - Simon Pagenaud

October 19, 2015

Simon Pagenaud joined Team Penske at the end of 2014, bringing with him limitless potential and high expectations. The move expanded Team Penske’s Verizon IndyCar Series operation to four cars for the first time in the team’s five decades in the sport, with Pagenaud joining Will Power, Helio Castroneves and Juan Pablo Montoya as teammates. The bar was set high as all four drivers finished in the top five of the final standings in 2014. 

So, a quick look at the 2015 results for Pagenaud and the No. 22 Avaya Team Penske Chevrolet team might indicate a season of unfulfilled opportunities without a race win and an 11th-place finish in the championship standings. But a closer look would show that this was a brand new race team. Driver, engineer and strategist were all new to the organization. The 2015 season was more about laying groundwork for what many believe will be a long, fruitful relationship between Pagenaud and the No. 22 team. 

“We understood the expectations that everyone placed on us before the season started,” said Pagenaud. “It’s hard not to get caught up in that. You are coming to one of the best teams in the world so you expect to do well. But we knew that we were going to stick to our plan and build this team the right way. It may not have been apparent to the ‘naked eye’ but we could definitely see improvements each time out as the season progressed.”

One area where no Team Penske driver disappointed in 2015 was in qualifying, and Pagenaud definitely did his part in helping the team dominate this part of race weekends. He scored his first Verizon P1 Pole Award with the team – and his first on an oval – at the MAVTV 500 at Auto Club Speedway in June. He also captured a front row starting position (third) for the 99th running of the Indianapolis 500 in May, along with five other front row starting spots throughout the year. 

The 132 laps that Pagenaud led during the season was more than double his previous career high. Unfortunately so was his level of bad luck, beginning with an incident in the second race of the season at the Grand Prix of Louisiana that was not of his own doing. 

Pagenaud had one of the best cars at the Indianapolis 500 and he was in a great position to win that race before he had to pit at lap 176 to repair front wing damage following contact with the car driven by the late Justin Wilson. The unscheduled stop dropped him from fifth to 21st with only a handful of laps left when the race resumed. Showing the speed of his Chevrolet, Pagenaud was able to drive back up to the 10th position in 15 laps before checkered flag waved. 

Pagenaud also led 59 laps at Texas Motor Speedway and 30 laps at Pocono Raceway, displaying a fast car throughout much of the 2015 Verizon IndyCar Series season. He finished the year with four top-five finishes and nine top-10 results, including podium finishes at Belle Isle and Mid-Ohio. 

Much like building a house, the foundation has been laid and the walls are going up at Chateau de Pagenaud. He and engineer, Ben Bretzman, have a larger notebook after their first season working with Chevrolet and there was good chemistry between the driver and race strategist Kyle Moyer. The team is confident that they will start the 2016 Verizon IndyCar Series season with a bang, so when building this house they should construct a large mantle on which to display their future successes. 

“I’m already looking forward to next year,” stated Pagenaud. “We have some new venues in Road America and Boston that I’m excited about, along with Phoenix. The Verizon IndyCar Series has a lot of momentum right now and that is cool to see for everyone involved, including our great sponsors in Avaya, Chevrolet, Penske Truck Rental and PPG. Without them we couldn’t do this. We are going to get them to Victory Lane soon.”