After coming up short in the fight for the 2019 NTT IndyCar Series championship, Team Penske‘s Simon Pagenaud has said that he has “nothing to be disappointed about” after a successful season that saw him win the Indianapolis 500 and silence doubters after a difficult year in 2018.
Pagenaud entered the final race weekend of the season sitting in third place in the championship standings, forty two points off of championship-leader and team-mate Josef Newgarden and just one point off of Andretti Autosport‘s Alexander Rossi.
Pagenaud, Newgarden, Rossi and Scott Dixon were able to get into the final round of qualifying on Saturday, with Pagenaud just sneaking in after beating team-mate Will Power to the final spot in the session by just three-thousandths of a second. From there, Simon wasn’t able to better his position, qualifying his #22 Chevrolet in sixth-place; a decent result despite having had a couple of hairy moments and off-track excursions during the session.
“Yeah, it was definitely an intense qualifying,” Simon said on Saturday, “We pushed as hard as we could to try to be ahead. Very exciting. I mean, a little too exciting for my taste, especially Q1. The problem is we were back there on pit lane, and it’s very difficult to get your tires up to temperature when everybody is trying to get themselves up front. So it’s an accordion effect, and Q1 was complicated. Our first lap was going to be my fastest and I caught Sebastien. To make sure I was going to get a good lap I had to abort to get a second.
“It was a very stressful situation, but overall I wanted to be on the pole. I think we all wanted to be on the pole. But it was very tight. It was very important to at least transfer to the Fast Six, and I think we tried everything we could. I was attacking everywhere, maybe a little too much at times, but that was the time to go. Absolutely no regrets, and we did the best we could.”
Despite qualifying the lowest of the four title contenders, Simon Pagenaud looked to be the fastest of the quartet in Sunday’s race. Pagenaud drove as hard as he may have done at any point in his IndyCar career as he worked his way up into fourth place and onto the back of Scott Dixon for the closing stages of the race.
Whilst Pagenaud was working his way to the front, the championship leader was dropping back. Josef Newgarden was running down in eighth place as the race drew to a close, with Josef letting attacking drivers through so as to avoid a collision that would take him out of championship contention. This meant that if Pagenaud had been able to overtake Dixon, along with the race-leaders Colton Herta and Will Power, he could steal the title from his team-mate.
However, Dixon was putting up an incredible defence of his podium position. Pagenaud tried lap after lap to try and find a way by the reigning champion, but he was never quite able to complete a pass. In the end, Pagenaud would have to settle for fourth place and, with it, second-place in the standings with a twenty-five point deficit to Newgarden.
After the race, Pagenaud said that whilst he was “disappointed” to have not been able to pass Dixon and have a go at the race victory, he was not disappointed to have finished as the runner-up in the title fight. Simon ends the season having swept the month of May at Indianapolis Motor Speedway after winning both the Grand Prix of Indianapolis and the Indianapolis 500.
Those wins, coupled with his return to the top spot on the streets of Toronto, saw Pagenaud improve on his 2018 finish of sixth-place to return to front-running contention as the 2019 runner-up. As a result, he has silenced a number of his critics after he had endured a winless season last year.
“Overall I thought it was an amazing race,” Pagenaud said post-race, “I thought we gave a great show for the fans, and it was a great crowd out here today, and there’s nothing to be disappointed about. I tried as hard as I could all weekend. You saw me drive with my heart.
“I won at Indianapolis this year. There’s nothing to be disappointed about. We finished second. That’s the second time we’re second in the championship. We won the championship in ’16. I think the numbers talk for themselves. Do I want to win the championship? Of course. But I’m just equally happy for Josef and the whole team, to wrap up the Indy 500 and the championship in one year is just absolutely incredible.
“I had a blast. I had a blast today. It was disappointing not to get Dixon because I really thought I had a shot for the win and Herta. But it is what it is. I tried everything I had and it didn’t work out.”
Pagenaud will be hoping that his momentum from finishing as the 2019 runner-up will put him in good shape for the 2020 NTT IndyCar Series. He, along with his Team Penske team-mates, will be hoping to be in contention for the crown once again.