Simon Pagenaud entered the Verizon IndyCar Series season finale as a championship contender along with Will Power and Helio Castroneves of Team Penske. Next year, he’ll be their teammate.
Team Penske announced Sept. 29 that Pagenaud has signed a multi-year contract will drive the No. 22 Chevrolet-powered car for the 2014 series championship-winning team.
Power won his first Indy car title at Auto Club Speedway on Aug. 30, outdistancing Castroneves by 62 points over the 18 races. Juan Pablo Montoya, who won at Pocono Raceway and posted eight top-five finishes in his return to Indy car racing after 13 years, finished fourth in the standings for Team Penske.
The addition of Pagenaud, who won four races over the past three seasons with Schmidt Peterson Hamilton Motorsports and placed fifth in the 2014 championship, gives Team Penske a formidable lineup for the first season of aero kits. Combined, the four drivers delivered seven victories and 30 top-five finishes this season.
“Simon Pagenaud is a very talented, focused and determined driver,” said team owner Roger Penske, who this season won his first entrant championship since 2006. “We know how tough he has been to compete with over the last few seasons and we are very happy to welcome him to Team Penske starting in 2015. With Simon coming on board to join Will, Helio and Juan, we feel we have four drivers very capable of winning on any given weekend and four guys who are legitimate championship contenders.”
Pagenaud, 30, of France, won the inaugural Grand Prix of Indianapolis on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course on May 10 and added a victory in the back end of the Houston street course doubleheader June 29. A day earlier, earned his first series pole. Overall, he posted eight top-five finishes (average finish of 8.8) and had an average starting position of 8.6.
“Getting a chance to race for Team Penske is almost like a dream to me,” said Pagenaud, who has placed fifth, third and fifth in the standings the past three seasons. “I have always admired the team and everything that Roger Penske has accomplished in racing. I am so excited to become a part of Team Penske and I can’t wait for the 2015 season to start.”
Penske Racing president Tim Cindric said sponsorship and a race engineer are yet to be decided.
Pagenaud rejoins Power, a former teammate in Champ Car. Their rivalry was a story line in the first half of the season, which was accentuated by their cars making contact in the Long Beach and Detroit 1 races. Pagenaud finished 22nd in the Detroit race -- his only DNF of the season. Pagenaud said he doesn't expect any issues arising between the competitors.
"Yes, we've had our contacts on track and all that, but we enjoyed very much working together at the time and it's going to be our job to make it work for Team Penske," Pagenaud said. "I don't see any reason it work well. Actually, it is going to work well."
Pagenaud won the Champ Car Atlantic Series title as a rookie in 2006 and produced four wins en route to the American Le Mans Series LMP1 title in 2010. He competed in three Verizon IndyCar Series races in 2011 and joined Schmidt Peterson Hamilton for the 2012 season (six top-five finishes, including four podiums, in 15 races) during which he was named the Sunoco Rookie of the Year.
In 2013, Pagenaud won on the Belle Isle and Baltimore street circuits and added three other top-five finishes. The 2015 opener on March 29 -- the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg -- will be Pagenaud's 70th Verizon IndyCar Series start.
At the time of the announcement, the Schmidt Peterson team was auditioning drivers Gabby Chaves -- the reigning Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires champion -- Rocky Moran and Rodolfo Gonzalez at Homestead-Miami Speedway.