Simon Pagenaud became the 2016 Verizon IndyCar Series champion in commanding fashion on Sunday as the Frenchman led all but nine laps at Sonoma Raceway for his fifth victory of the season.
The Team Penske driver needed to finish at least fifth on Sunday to clinch his maiden IndyCar title, but it all became irrelevant when his only rival for the crown, Will Power, had gearbox issues to fall out of contention.
Pagenaud was naturally delighted to become champion, and felt that his whole career has been building up to this, and he thanked his whole #22 crew for the efforts they’ve put in this year to take him to the title.
“It’s unbelievable,” said Pagenaud. “What a race. There is so much emotion right now, to be honest, I don’t know if you can see it.
“I can’t find the words. My whole career has been about this, about today and getting to this point and to this level. When you can perform 100 percent under pressure like this is amazing.
“It’s such a good thing. It’s me winning but it’s the whole team, the No. 22 team and Team Penske.”
Pagenaud ultimately clinched the title by 127 points from Power, and he felt it was important to win it in style to prove he can perform under pressure.
“It was important for me to show that pressure doesn’t affect me,” said Pagenaud to Autosport. “That is one thing that has been my trademark but I don’t think a lot of people have seen it.
“I wanted to make a statement that we’ve been strong all championship and this was going to be our day. No matter what, we were going to take our destiny in our own hands.
“I went out on the offensive side trying to drive the car as hard as I could and manage the tyres. It also meant if I was away from everybody there would statistically be less of a chance for an incident. I just went as hard as I could. It was a great day for domination.”