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Simon Pagenaud is Proving Early Success in 2016 is No Fluke
Those skeptical of Simon Pagenaud’s early-season success have no reason to doubt the Team Penske driver after his third consecutive victory of the season coming in last Saturday’s Grand Prix of Indianapolis.
Pagenaud, who failed to win in his first season with Team Penske in 2015, has reversed course in 2016. He has finished no worse than second in the Verizon IndyCar Series’ first five races of the season, giving him a commanding 76-point lead over second-place Scott Dixon.
“It’s incredible right now,” Pagenaud said of his success. “The momentum we have now, this little domination that we are having, is incredible.”
Pagenaud’s torrid start is a stark contrast from last year’s start to the Verizon IndyCar Series season that saw five different winners during the first five races. Eventual series champion Dixon was the winningest driver on the season with three wins – with his third win not coming until the season finale at Sonoma.
“When you can have perfect weekends like that several times in one race season it’s incredible,” Pagenaud said. “The level of talent that teams have, that drivers have, is incredible. Certainly it feels like being on a cloud, living a bit of a dream.”
The rise of Pagenaud comes as no surprise to those within the sport. They point to his success with the underfunded Schmidt Peterson Motorsports team in 2013 and 2014, when he tallied two wins in each of those years.
Aside from his victories, his racing resume features some impressive accolades that include 2012 Verizon IndyCar Series Sunoco Rookie of the Year and the 2010 ALMS LMP championship.
"Simon is a very capable man in many ways," former Indianapolis 500 champion Gil de Ferran said. "He's talented and he is very self-critical. He works on his craft a lot. At this level it's not just about going fast. To win championships and be consistent, you have to learn how to put a whole weekend together; you have to make good choices in the car and about the car setup with the engineer.
"Simon over the years has developed his craft little by little, and you're seeing the results now. He's making very few mistakes and he's making very good choices. You can tell he's really settling down now."
With Pagenaud showing no signs of slowing from his torrid pace his confidence only grows. Many will continue to doubt if he can continue to live up to his success but that doesn’t bother Pagenaud.
In fact, it only plays into the Frenchmen’s hands heading into the biggest race of the season – the 100th Indianapolis 500.
"I'm just going to do my thing," Pagenaud said. "I don't mind being under the radar, as long as we win races. At this point I'm pretty happy to be where we're at. It's been a great start of the season. Most importantly, I feel like I'm driving really well and the whole team is in a very good dynamic on the [No.] 22 side.”