DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – Synergy, Simon Pagenaud notes, creates opportunities for the whole team. A free flow of information and data also breeds personal opportunities, which is what the newest Team Penske driver is counting on as he aims for his first Verizon IndyCar Series championship.
Pagenaud joined the team in September, which immediately set expectations of a season-long intra-squad competition. That, too, could create opportunities.
Will Power won his first Verizon IndyCar Series title in 2014, outdistancing Team Penske teammate Helio 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.
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 past season.
“There are four cars at Penske and four cars that are capable of being in contention for the championship,” said Pagenaud, who will drive the No. 22 Chevrolet. “When you drive for Roger (Penske), it’s pretty clear with all the resources and what’s been given to the team that you should be successful. If you don’t compete for the championship, something is not working.
“I’m an addition to the team they had last year. It will be more of a transition for me, but I’m going to do what I have been doing, which is give 100 percent. Behind me, I have a very strong team with a lot of resources and capabilities. If we do a good job, the results should come.”
Pagenaud, 30, will get on the track with his new teammates for the initial time Feb. 3-4 at Sebring International Raceway, followed by a Feb. 10-11 test at NOLA Motorsports Park with the 2014 Dallara/Chevrolet package that will be utilized for the March 8 opener in Brasilia, Brazil.
“It’s been a long offseason, but quite frankly for me and for the team I think it’s been a benefit. We’ve gotten to know each other and get ready,” said Pagenaud, whose longtime race engineer, Ben Bretzman, followed him from Schmidt Peterson Hamilton Motorsports. “Tim Cindric and the guys at Penske have surrounded me with really good people. I’m looking forward to getting on track with them and get the ball rolling.”
Pagenaud, co-driving the GT Le Mans class pole-winning Corvette C7.Rs in the 53rd Rolex 24 At Daytona this weekend, recently moved into a new house near the team’s headquarters in Mooresville, N.C. It’s another transition for the Frenchman.
“This winter has been a big change for me personally and professionally,” he said. “I’ve always thought, since I moved to the U.S. and started working with Walker Racing in 2006, it was an advantage for me to be close to the race team for when they need me or I need them. I moved to Indianapolis and stayed there.
“After I signed this contract, I wanted to move right away to get ready before the season starts so I could focus on my driving. There have been a lot of adjustments, and on the professional side a lot of study of the Penske ways, understanding the philosophy of the team at the racetrack and what they do when they encounter an issue at the track. I think it’s an advantage to be close to the race team. It’s all good.”