Simon Pagenaud praised his Team Penske team for enabling him to be able to fight for victory around the streets of St. Petersburg on Sunday despite the Frenchman starting the 110-lap race down in fourteenth position.
Pagenaud was eliminated in the first segment of qualifying on Saturday but found improvement in the set-up of his car on Sunday morning, and then worked his way up the order before lucking in with the timing of a caution period that put him into the lead. All this after being tapped from behind heading into turn three that almost pushed him into the wall!
Unfortunately, the reigning Verizon IndyCar Series champion was unable to maintain that lead due to the pace of Sebastien Bourdais, but he was able to retain second comfortably.
“It’s definitely a champion team for regrouping like they did, understanding the issue we had in qualifying,” said Pagenaud. “This morning in the warm-up, I was back home in my car. It was great to get that feeling back.
“The race, the car was fantastic. We got very lucky at the start, I would say. We went through the chaos. I think God had something to play with it actually, because he put the car back where it needed to go. Very lucky.
“Then after that, we were a bit lucky with strategy. But that was actually the plan. So thanks to (strategist) Kyle Moyer and (engineer) Ben Bretzman for their work on that. They gave me some clean air. We had to save quite a bit of fuel to manage till the end.”
Pagenaud gave a lot of praise to his fellow Frenchman Bourdais for the victory and to Dale Coyne Racing, and he hopes the second place finish this year is a good omen as it matches the result he achieved in 2016 that started his push towards the championship.
“(Sebastien) Bourdais was untouchable today,” said Pagenaud. “It’s 1-2 French. Sorry for the French Revolution, guys. I’m very happy for him. It’s been his hometown actually. He’s been here since he moved to America.
“With Dale Coyne and Honda, they’ve shown a lot of strength. Fantastic for them. I wish it was P1 for me, P2 for him. Next time maybe. But very happy for him. Very happy for second. We started second last year as well. Hopefully it’s our good luck charm.”