INDYCAR continues our celebration of the 12 days of Christmas with 12 of the most memorable storylines from the 2014 Verizon IndyCar Series season.
Simon Pagenaud left the Month of May with a giant trophy and another win on his growing resume of accomplishments in the Verizon IndyCar Series. The 30-year-old Frenchman became the first winner at Indianapolis in 2014, earning the inaugural victory at the Grand Prix of Indianapolis, and carried that momentum into an impressive run at the 98th Indianapolis 500 where he qualified fifth and finished 12th.
He’ll have another chance to capture his first Indy 500 win next year, but as far as memorable moments from last season go, the former Schmidt Peterson Motorsports driver says he’s incredibly proud to have his name entered into the Brickyard’s history books as the first to win the GP of Indy.
“It was a great day for the team, and for myself; we were super competitive all week,” said Pagenaud, who drove the No. 77 Honda. “We thought we would have a chance to go for the win, and it’s probably the weekend we were the most competitive.”
Gauging the impact and interest surround any first-time event is a challenge, yet for Pagenaud, the gravity of what he and the SPM team achieved was clear once the race concluded.
“I have to tell you, I was really, really surprised of the intensity of the media after the race, realizing how big an event this is becoming,” he said. “This is was incredible. I treated it as a normal road course so I didn’t really think of the history of the Brickyard, of the place itself until I realized when I won!
“That was a very special moment to see how important it was for the IMS and for the big fans of IndyCar and racing in general. I feel very blessed to be that guy that won the first one, and I am very proud of it.”
The 82-lap race was an intense affair from the moment the lights went out. A sizeable crash during the standing start triggered an immediate caution period, and more contact would take place throughout the event. Starting fourth, Pagenaud’s path to victory included full complements of speed and careful navigation of the repaved IMS road course.
“On the first lap, even though it went yellow behind me, we went through the first corner three wide, so there was a lot of action, and on every start and restart, it was very busy throughout the race,” he noted.
“It was a thrilling race. I feel lucky that I survived the show! I felt lucky that I went through the crashes without any issues. All in all, it was a perfect day for me and for the team.”
With his move to Team Penske during the off-season, a move from Indianapolis to North Carolina also took place, and with the gorgeous GP of Indy trophy taking center stage in his office, Pagenaud says he has a nice reminder of the event awaiting him each morning.
“It’s the nicest trophy I’ve ever had, to be honest,” he enthused. “It is an incredible piece of art and I feel very, very happy that I managed to get this one, that’s for sure. I have other trophies that also mean a lot too, but this one is definitely special and it is right in the middle of my two trophy cases. It has its own case that it stands on. It’s definitely in a special place in my heart and in my trophy case.”