By Josh Farmer, IndyCar Reporter
Years in IndyCar: 6
Career Laps led: 718
2016-17 Team: Team Penske
Simon Pagenaud has emerged as one of the sport’s greats after winning 2017 Verizon IndyCar Series championship.
Coming off a less than stellar finish of 11th in the 2015 points in his debut season for Team Penske, the Frenchman was unstoppable right from the green flag at St. Petersburg.
Three straight wins at Long Beach, Barber and the IndyCar Grand Prix on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Road course launched him to a massive points lead by the mid-summer.
That upward drive continued as he held his lead despite an impressive charge by teammate Will Power during the summer. A crash at the ABC Supply 500 at Pocono Raceway in August cut his lead down to 25 points with just three round remaining.
He rebounded after Pocono by finishing a smart fourth at the shootout in Texas, seventh at Watkins Glen and dominated the season finale at the Sonoma Raceway from pole.
He ended the season by leading all drivers with five wins, eight poles and led series high 406 laps. Topping that off were eight podiums and 12 top tens.
With 2016 in the rear-view mirror, Pagenaud is focusing on attacking, not defending his title. The entire crew from the championship-winning No. 22 Team Penske Chevrolet will return to the renumbered No. 1 car for 2017. That includes race engineer Ben Bretzman, who has worked with Pagenaud since 2012 when both were at Schmidt Peterson Motorsports.
All things considered now that has won his first title, he could be entering an Alex Zanardi-esque stage of his career.
He has pace like Zanardi, who claimed two Indy car championships and 15 wins in a three-year span from 1997-98. More importantly, he knows where and when to attack without going over the line. On top of that, his technical knowledge and feedback is one of the best that the series has ever seen.
The only feather missing from his cap is a win on an oval. Given his pace on them, a win could be just right around the corner.