MILWAUKEE – Press a little and the Verizon IndyCar Series drivers will acknowledge they got schooled. A few by a 12-year-old, root beer-drinking, paddle-swinging youngster named Nick.
“Definitely a ringer,” Simon Pagenaud says.
The evening before testing at the Milwaukee Mile, the Andretti Autosport contingent of Marco Andretti, James Hinchcliffe, Ryan Hunter-Reay and Carlos Munoz joined Pagenaud and Schmidt Peterson Motorsports teammate Mikhail Aleshin for some friendly table tennis matches against contest winners at Evolution Gastro Pong.
It wasn’t center court at Roland Garros, but a fun event to promote the ABC Supply Co. Inc. Wisconsin 250 at Milwaukee IndyFest Presented by the Metro Milwaukee Honda Dealers on Aug. 16-17.
“It’s great when we get to come to a town, interact with the fans and build awareness for the race,” said Hinchcliffe, who noted his last competitive match was years ago. “I used to go to a summer camp and that is the de facto activity between time of other events or meals. I think I’ll have to go out and get a table now; it’s got me hooked.”
The sport was part of Pagenaud’s youth, and it was evident by some of his attempted smashes that he had taken it seriously.
“I played a lot after school and on vacation; it’s something that’s very popular in France,” said Pagenaud, a native of Montmorillon. “When you’re a kid you’re like a sponge you learn everything quick, like Nick. I used to hate losing so I used to train in my garage to win as much as I could. I always had a friend who was better than me.”
Hunter-Reay is the two-time defending winner of the race on the challenging oval that has hosted Indy car races for decades. The Verizon IndyCar Series event weekend also will showcase Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires and the Pro Mazda Championship Presented by Cooper Tires.
“I’m really glad that Dad stepped up and kept this track on the map,” Andretti said of his father, Michael, CEO of Andretti Sports Marketing and owner of Andretti Autosport. “I think it’s a staple in the INDYCAR schedule and they’re able to make it work.”
Following the tournament that included an informal autograph/photo time, the drivers joined in for a group photo.
"Was nice to talk to the drivers one on one," said Sophie Hanson, who attended the event.
Get race weekend tickets at www.milwaukeeindyfest.com/tickets.