Pagenaud and Bretzman Form a Winning Combination

May 22, 2020

"Penske Material" provides an inside look at some of the personalities, stories and moments that make Team Penske so unique. 

Whether it’s working together to win the Indianapolis 500 or an iRacing online competition - and everything in between - Simon Pagenaud and Ben Bretzman have become the “dynamic duo” of motorsports. Together, they make the perfect blend of driver and race engineer and they seem to bring out the best in each other.

Penske Material LogoBoth Pagenaud and Bretzman would describe their working relationship as being like a marriage. They have found and harnessed the right balance that combines strong driving talent and engineering brilliance. The result is a winning combination that continues to reach new heights after nearly 10 years of working together.

Since Pagenaud joined Team Penske in 2015, the pair has won the 2016 IndyCar Series championship, the 2019 Indianapolis 500, a total of 10 races and they’ve produced 22 podium finishes and 13 poles positions together on the No. 22 Menards/DXC Technology Dallara/Chevrolet team.

Last season, the Bretzman/Pagenaud pairing helped them finish second in the championship standings – just 25 points behind 2019 champion and Team Penske teammate, Josef Newgarden – after posting impressive victories at the INDYCAR Grand Prix, the Indianapolis 500 and Toronto.

The tandem’s 2019 Indianapolis 500 victory will be remembered as one of the most exciting finishes in the history of the legendary race as Pagenaud battled Alexander Rossi over the final laps for a dramatic victory as he became the first Frenchman in 99 years to win at Indy.

Team Penske IndyCar Pagenaud Bretzman"I think it definitely showed I had the best car,” said Pagenaud, who gave due credit to the team’s leaders after the biggest win of his life. “Obviously, (race strategist) Kyle Moyer and Ben Bretzman, my engineer, were giving me the perfect information. They are the ones who deserve the credit. I think we had the perfect amount of downforce on the car, all the right decisions were made. The car was just fantastic, and I realized that I could run second as long as I wanted and pass people when I wanted."

"I think Ben this month was a notch above," said Pagenaud at Indy. "I think he just (rose) to the level, to the expectation of what this race is. I think he had a lot of drive, as well. I think he felt how good I felt lately. So I can't thank him enough for all the hours."

Strategy is always an important element at Indianapolis, but it made the difference over the final laps of the race, according to Bretzman.

"When you're out front, you burn a lot of gas," said Bretzman. "We led most of the first half of the race, so that actually put us in a little trouble, fuel-wise. I pulled the car high, to save fuel; but all the yellows (cautions) at the end made it a sprint race, which fans love to see anyway."

Team Penske Pagenaud BretzmanWhere did the Pagenaud/Bretzman combination begin and how did these two Team Penske champions form such a strong bond?

Bretzman, a native of Satellite Beach, Fla. began his career in motorsports while interning with Dreyer and Reinbold Racing while he was still in college working on an industrial engineering degree from The University of Central Florida. His efforts helped the team secure a front row starting spot for the 2002 Indianapolis 500. Between 2004-2005, Bretzman became a race engineer for the team and his career path was on the fast track when graduated from college in 2005.

Bretzman shifted his focus to sports car racing and the American Le Mans Series (ALMS) when he joined Andretti Green Racing as an assistant race engineer for the 2008 ALMS season. A move to Highcroft Racing prior to the 2009 ALMS season helped Bretzman produce consecutive driver championships in 2009 and 2010. While at Highcroft Racing, Bretzman had his first opportunity to work with Pagenaud, the former European Formula Renault racer who won the Champ Car Atlantic title in the U.S. and tried to carry that success over to IndyCar. The two hit it off immediately. Pagenaud won nine races over the two seasons and captured the ALMS LMP title in 2010 as the championship seeds were sewn with Bretzman in the driver’s corner.

In 2011, Bretzman transitioned to the NASCAR ranks as he became race engineer for the No. 5 Chevrolet, driven by veteran Mark Martin, at Hendrick Motorsports.

Just one year later, however, Bretzman joined Schmidt Peterson Motorsports for the 2012 IndyCar Series season, and he was reunited with Pagenaud. In their first IndyCar seaosn together, Pagenaud captured series Rookie of the Year honors on the strength of four podium finishes and a fifth-place effort in the championship standings. The 2013 season saw Pagenaud and Bretzman team up for their first IndyCar Series victory, claiming a win in the second race of the Chevrolet Dual in Detroit. The duo produced another victory later in the season on the Baltimore street circuit as Pagenaud finished third in the championship standings. Pagenaud and Bretzman posted two more wins in 2014, including a victory in the inaugural Grand Prix of Indianapolis, and the driver/engineer combination earned its third consecutive top-five finish in the series championship standings.

Team Penske Indy 500 WinWhen Pagenaud joined Team Penske in 2015, Bretzman was not far behind and the two have built on their winning tradition together over the last five seasons. In just their second season together at Team Penske, Pagenaud and Bretzman claimed the IndyCar Series championship behind five wins, eight poles and eight podium finishes. Then last season, they secured three more victories, including the biggest of them all in the Indianapolis 500 as they completed the first-ever sweep of the month of May claiming the INDYCAR Grand Prix, the Indy 500 pole position and a win for the ages in the “Greatest Spectacle in Racing.”

While the 2020 IndyCar Series season has been put on hold over the last two months due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Pagenaud and Bretzman have even managed to carry their magic over to the virtual racing ranks. With Pagenaud sporting his full firesuit in his home sim and Bretzman figuring out fuel windows and pit strategy inside his office at home while communicating with his driver, the pair shined in the

INDYCAR iRacing Challenge. They captured wins at the virtual Twin Ring Motegi and Michigan International Speedway tracks during the entertaining six-race series.

Now, both men are ready to rejoin the rest of the members of the No. 22 Chevrolet team and return to real-world IndyCar Series competition. As the series begins to warm it collective engines for the opening race of 2020 at the Texas Motor Speedway oval on Saturday, June 6, IndyCar’s “dynamic duo” are ready to build on their success together and add to Team Penske’s winning legacy. They look forward to the opportunity of defending their Indianapolis 500 title during the rescheduled race on August 23 and their combined forces will be on full display as they work to secure their second championship together this season.  


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