Pagenaud half a second from victory after charge from 26th

IndyCar

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Simon Pagenaud finished half a second behind Indianapolis 500 winner Hélio Castroneves despite starting 26th on the grid and losing time early on due to an emergency fuel stop.

The highest-ranked Penske driver in the race said his car felt “phenomenal all day” after crossing the line fractionally behind Alex Palou’s second-placed car. “We were right there at the end,” said Pagenaud on Sunday evening.

His comeback drive to the front of the field was almost ruined early on, when he was one of eight drivers forced to make an emergency fuel stop while the pit lane was closed during the first caution period from laps 32 to 45. Pagenaud had to restart from the rear of the field, leaving just three-quarters of the race to fight his way to the front.

“We had 156 laps to come back to the front,” explained Pagenaud, who broke into the top 10 after passing three cars on the restart following the second caution, on lap 127.

“We managed to really adjust the car through the beginning of the race. At the end, I was pedal to the metal. I didn’t care. I just wanted to get to these guys and have some fun with them.

“I could see Hélio was playing a very smart game. Obviously he knows how to win the race. Álex was trying his best to hold him off. Hélio was just biding his time.”

Pagenaud said the hat his car struggled running fourth in line behind Castroneves, Palou, and Pato O’Ward. But once he overtook O’Ward for third place with a lap to go, he thought he had a chance to also make a run past both Palou and Castroneves. “Because of the draft, it was difficult in fourth place to get through Pato. We did it on the last lap. I thought I may have had a shot in turn four, but Hélio was too fast,” said Pagenaud.

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The 2019 Indianapolis 500 winner found he had to add downforce to his car during the race to make it perform better in traffic.

“We started with too little downforce,” he explained. “I was struggling on the first stint to get passes done. The chassis was fantastic, but we just needed more downforce to be more aggressive.

“I was waiting for the pit stop to make adjustments. We made a rear wing adjustment, a front wing adjustment at the same time and the car came together. Then we kept adjusting through the race. At the end there it was loose. That’s what I needed to be good in traffic.”

Pagenaud felt that changes IndyCar made to its aerodynamic package aided overtaking in the second year since the introduction of the Aeroscreen. “I thought it was great racing,” he said. “I could pass people. I thought it was a matter of having the right adjustment done during the pit stops. It was a matter of being aggressive also.”

The 37-year-old said he felt inspired by the example of 46-year-old Castroneves in scoring his fourth victory in the race.

“He’s writing a huge page of the 500 mile history here,” Pagenaud remarked. “Finally, a guy of our generation is going in the four-time winners’ club. That’s very special. He’s a great friend.

“He just gave me 10 more years in my career to go catch him. Thank you, Hélio!” Pagenaud laughed.

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RJ O'Connell
Motorsport has been a lifelong interest for RJ, both virtual and ‘in the carbon’, since childhood. RJ picked up motorsports writing as a hobby...

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  • One comment on “Pagenaud half a second from victory after charge from 26th”

    1. Such a shame to see Pato lose the third in the last corner, but great comeback from Pagenaud

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