chevy racing–indycar– simon pagenaud

 SIMON PAGENAUD, DRIVER OF THE NO. 22 MENARDS TEAM PENSKE CHEVROLET, met with members of the media via Zoom. Full transcript:
ON START OF SEASON:Texas was a great weekend. I think we executed really well and Chevy power was strong and allowed us to be upfront all day. We still have work to do, but we were able to finish second with what we had. Obviously it was the first weekend with the adjustments to the Covid . It is quite a bit different. 
“Then we got to the Grand Prix of Indianapolis which is one of my favorites. We went there with our goal to win. Unfortunately we were only able to finish third. But considering the weekend, we did a great job as a team to execute again. And that shows the strength of the No. 22 team. To start a championship, you need to have the cohesion between people. I think we are showing that strength as a group, and that is going to prepare us in a very good dynamic going forward here.
“We have four races in two weeks, so obviously I have been taking a good time to recover. I’ve been very conscious of what to do to recover. Properly hydrate. I lost a mere 8 ½ pounds during the race at Indianapolis. I’m on my way to recovery, but it is definitely the life of an athlete. I just want to make sure going into Road America I want to present fully hydrated and full strength. It is going to be an interesting few weeks where that is going to become one of the priorities for the drivers going forward. But I’m excited because I’ve worked really hard for this and its paying off.”
ON FANS AT ROAD AMERICA AND IOWA:“Its been strange. It is strange to go to the track without any fans. Its like being at a test session. Without the hype from the crowd, you don’t get the feeling of being a gladiator or a superstar. It’s quiet. It doesn’t have that racing feel.  To me race fans make racing interesting. It’s a party every weekend when we go racing and without them, it is not. I’m excited about going to Road America and for the first time, we are going to open up the gates. I look forward to it. It is a great place to have people and for them to camp and see us racing around that beautiful track. Very excited that and for us, being back in Menards backyard. It is very important. In Wisconsin we always want to do well for that reason.”
YOU PUT ON QUITE A SHOW SATURDAY COMING FROM THE BACK, YOU’VE DONE THAT BEFORE. PLEASE TALK ABOUT HOW YOU ARE ABLE TO DO THAT SO SUCCESSFULLY:“Quite frankly, big congrats to my team. I think the strategy that Kyle Moyer and Ben Bretzman put together, and Malcolm Finch calculating my fuel. He was extremely precise with how much fuel I had left in the tank and how much to use when. I think that was key. It was key to how much to push when others were pitting for example. We created a big difference when others were pitting. I was pushing as hard as I could for several laps and we made up a lot of seconds. In racing, a second is a lifetime. I think there was that. And then I was incredibly impressed with the Chevy power. I was able to pass people on the straightaway earlier than I have ever been before. Easier. I think Chevy has done a lot of work for horsepower and that gets me really excited for the Indianapolis 500.  That really helped me.
“I am not going to give away any secrets here, but I think my physical preparation this past winter paid off. I was able to keep it at 100% the whole race and at the end I had a little bit of resources to try and get (Graham) Rahal. I was at the very very limit of my physical capabilities, so if that is the case, I think that a lot of people were very very struggling.”
TALK ABOUT HOW THAT PHYSICAL TRAINING IS GOING TO PAY OFF WITH THE NEW AEROSCREEN ESPECIALLY AT IOWA: We are in the early stages of the aeroscreen. I have been one of the ones preaching this and in favor of the aeroscreen because it adds safety. We’ve been pioneers as IndyCar racers. We are pioneers in safety. We are the first to go forward with this type of device. Unfortunately it was too hot in the last race. But IndyCar is already looking at adjustments to try and help the drivers with cooling, venting and drink bottles placement and size. They know what to do. That’s exciting. We knew there would be some kinks along the way in the early stages certainly. I think we will be okay.  But like you said, I’m working on my rehydration process. Right now preparing myself just like a race car to be tuned up for this week. Every weekend that is going to be very important.”
TALK ABOUT THE IMPORTANCE OF THE TV RATINGS OF THE INDIANAPOLIS TRIPLEHEADER AND HOW IT WENT:To me, that would have been the perfect weekend to have fans. But the situation is what it is, and INDYCAR has done a great job with it. I think we are seeing the Penske organization stamp right now. We are seeing the changes at the track and the speedway, the track is beautiful. We’ve seen the upgrades in the monitors and the way the track looked and the evolution of Georgetown.  It’s beautiful. I think having the triple header with INDYCAR, Xfinity and Cup together was phenomenal. I didn’t have much time to watch practices or anything, and I wasn’t allowed to stay for the Cup race unfortunately. It’s phenomenal. It is going to be a big shift for racing in America. It is going to change everything. We are going to attract fans from NASCAR to be interested in INDYCAR and vice versa. I think this is phenomenal.”
SO YOU ARE IN FAVOR OF THIS ON THE 2021 SCHEDULE?                                                       “Absolutely. I think it would be amazing if you can bring all the stars together in the same place. We talked earlier about a party – that would be a huge party for racing. Who knows what the future holds, to me it certainly seems like it could be a huge success.”
IS THERE A TANGIBLE FEELING FOR YOU ABOUT YOUR CHAMPIONSHIP CHANCES AFTER THE SOLID START YOU HAVE HAD? That is a very good question. Actually I am really excited after this weekend. As you said it is one of my best starts. 2016 was a dream start, you couldn’t expect any better start. This is actually my favorite position. I am establishing myself as a championship contender right away. We are showing a lot of strength as a team and I love that because I am a team guy. I love to feel my guys behind me supporting me. All of us giving 100%. That is a phenomenal feeling for me. It is what I love the most about racing. But them we are chasing Dixon, and I do love chasing. I love to put pressure on him. Obviously he is on a roll right now, but that won’t be the case all year. At some point, we’ll be the one on a roll. We have managed two difficult weekends and come away with two podiums. I think that should get some people very worried about our possibilities in the future. Very excited. I think we are in a very good position. I think we are in a very good position. Much better start than we had last year and we finished second. I should be a very strong season.”
WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS ON THE NEW, YOUNG SQUAD OFINDYCAR DRIVERS?I’ll tell you, its getting tough. It’s getting really tough out there! There are some really good kids coming up. Some really fast guys. Oliver Askew was impressive in qualifying. We’ve got Pato (O’Ward) and Rinnis (Veekay) – I started behind him, and he marched his way to the front. I was very impressed with his race pace. I only beat him on his last pit sequence. But he was very strong. He did a good job. I actually watched Rinnis in go karts not that long ago and was part of a jury to help him go up. I voted for him because I thought he had the right spirit. It is interesting to watch him work his way to the top. He’s definitely impressive. A lot of good kids. (Felix) Rosenquist is always there and Colton (Herta) is becoming more and more consistent. It is going to get tougher and tougher as the year goes on. It’s impressive to see how tight things are.”
DO THESE KIDS COME AS YOU FOR ADVICE?“Oh no, and I wouldn’t give it to them anyhow. (LAUGHS) It is competition out there and I love winning. I wake up every more trying to find the edge; try to find more. There are secrets and I’m not going to tell you my preparation. And I’m sure it’s the same for them. We all think we have found the new edge and so on and so forth. It is competition. That is what is so exciting about all of this. But I think I am done giving advice.”
HAS NORMAN BEEN BACK TO TRACK?“No he hasn’t been back. Haley (Pagenaud) has family here at home.  She is staying with them. I don’t see any reason why we should take the risk traveling. I’m already taking the risk to travel and get to the track. My life is based around racing. If I couldn’t race, I would be devastated. I’m in good health and Ithink I would be okay with the virus, but I don’t want risk to compete this season. If Haley was to be positive and transmit the virus to me, then I couldn’t race, so we are trying to be as safe as we can be. I unfortunately don’t have them at the track with me for support.  We have Facetime and I hope he’ll be back soon.”
HOW SHOCKED WERE YOU THAT JIMMIE JOHNSON AND HIS WIFE HAVE IT? “I actually talked to Jimmie and I feel terrible for him. It is a very important season for him. To me he is the GOAT for me and he is a great friend. It is a real shame what is happening. He has no symptoms. But it is what it is. We all have to be safe and make sure that everything goes back to normal. But I feel terrible for him.”

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