Team Penske‘s Simon Pagenaud has stated that his first podium finish of the 2018 Verizon IndyCar Series was “pretty awesome.” After a tough start to the season, Pagenaud finally returned to the top three with a strong drive to take second place in Saturday night’s DXC Technology 600 at Texas Motor Speedway.
The 2018 season has not gone as Pagenaud will have hoped so far. Prior to Texas, eight races had been run, with Simon finishing no higher than sixth place. A number of strong finishes had been possible, only to be taken away in circumstances such as the Grand Prix of Long Beach; where he was taken out of the race on lap one after an incident with Graham Rahal.
Things were looking up in Texas, however. Like he had in qualifying for the Indianapolis 500, Pagenaud performed well to take a strong second place on the grid; with Penske once again showing great pace on the ovals. In the race, however, their Penske cars did not quite have the fuel mileage of the Honda-powered rivals. This allowed Scott Dixon to get up into the lead during pit-stops; with no one able to catch him for the rest of the race.
In the end, Pagenaud would stay out of trouble and finish as the highest-placed Penske driver. He may have even been able to finish closer to the race winner, Dixon, had it not been for a late battle with the hard-charging Alexander Rossi. The Andretti Autosport driver has pulled off some sensationally audacious and spectacular overtakes in recent weeks, but he was unable to break the defence of Pagenaud, who would just hold him off to finish in second place.
Of course, a racing driver’s goal is always to win the race, but for Simon, second place was a massive step in the right direction after his lacklustre start to the year. After the race, the Frenchman would speak of the various challenges he had to deal with en-route to his first podium finish of the year. He would also go on to say how delighted he was to get the result in Texas, where DXC sponsored both the event and his #22 Chevrolet.
“It was a good night,” Simon said, “We started really strong, really loved the car to start in the heat. As the temperature dropped, it got a little bit more difficult for us. We adjusted the car the wrong way as the temperature dropped, it got pretty loose for us midway through.
“It was a pretty fast-paced race, as well, quite physical. I was just trying to manage the balance. It was quite fun, actually. We had to keep up with the tires, keep up with the balance of the car throughout the stints and also relay to the pit what you needed for the next one.
“It was fun. I mean, I had a lot of good battles, especially with Alexander [Rossi] at the end. He gave me some grey hair, the last 30 laps, but we managed to hold him off. That was really cool.
“Just to get a good result like this for us – I think the No. 22 team needed a break. I think we got one tonight. For DXC, it’s pretty awesome. We had about 3000 employees from DXC tonight, so it was good to have a good showing.”
Pagenaud will be hoping to build off of the momentum of his podium finish in the next race of the 2018 Verizon IndyCar Series. The KOHLER Grand Prix at Road America will take place on Sunday, July 24.