By Joey Barnes, Editor-in-Chief
The true comeback story of 2016 in the Verizon IndyCar Series thus far has to be that of Simon Pagenaud.
The Frenchman has enjoyed a stellar start to the season, scoring two runner-up finishes and back-to-back wins in the opening four rounds of the Verizon IndyCar Series championship. Pagenaud, who has led 160 of 530 laps this season, has seen a resurrection of sorts after his first season with Team Penske didn’t go according to plan.
So what made last year so abysmal for the 31-year-old?
Pagenaud found success during his time with Schmidt-Peterson Motorsports, a mid-tier team at the time, but still managed to score four wins and numerous podiums.
That is what caught the attention of Roger Penske and led the legendary owner to put Pagenaud behind the wheel of one of his Indy cars.
So Pagenaud started 2015 with the most famous team in all of IndyCar, racing alongside some of the best in the series, including 2012 series champion Will Power and future legends Juan Pablo Montoya and Helio Castroneves.
No pressure, right?
Pagenaud’s 2015 season saw just two podiums in 16 starts and finished outside of the top 10 on seven occasions.
Needless to say, expectations were not met.
But were those expectations really fair?
Factor in how long Pagenaud spent with SPM. The driver and team practically grew together to the IndyCar Series and now he was coming into a new team, with new engineers, and a complete new way of racing. Not to mention the switch from Honda to Chevrolet in the year that the new aero-kits debuted – and he was expected to immediately make an impact?
The expectations were insurmountable.
But the masses believed that success would be instant. They were wrong.
However, with a full offseason with the team and better preparation, Pagenaud has begun to prove all the doubters wrong once again.
Those that thought the Frenchman wouldn’t find success again because he couldn’t do it in year one with Penske, well now they are eating their words because the Frenchman is fast, again.
Pagenaud is tapping into the potential everyone expected to see and is thrashing thru each race weekend at a ridiculous pace. With two poles this season and an average start of 3.8, Pagenaud has put every driver and every team on notice that this championship runs through him.
With the Month of May looming, Pagenaud looks every bit the part of a future champion and is proving to his legendary team owner that he is indeed worth every penny.
Image: Matthew Bishop/Tribute Racing