By David Morgan, Associate Editor
AUSTIN, Texas – If Simon Pagenaud didn’t have bad luck in qualifying, he’d have no luck at all.
After running into trouble during qualifying for the season opener at St. Petersburg that resulted in a 13th place start, the 2016 NTT IndyCar Series champion and driver of the No. 22 Menards Team Penske Chevrolet found himself in the wrong place at the wrong time once again during qualifying for Sunday’s IndyCar Classic at The Circuit of the Americas.
The Frenchman was out on a flying lap in an effort to make it into the Top 12 and the next round of qualifying when a spin by Tony Kanaan brought out the red flag and halted his efforts to advance. As a result, Pagenaud’s lap of one minute, 48.9030 seconds (112.724 mph) was only good enough for 22nd on the grid for the 60-lap inaugural event.
“That’s two weeks in a row,” Pagenaud said. “Those are the circumstances we are dealt, I guess. It is frustrating for sure. We just need to be able to put a time up. It’s just too bad, because we don’t get to show all of the hard work this Menards Chevrolet team has put into this car.
“I’ve got to find a lucky charm or something,” he continued. “It’s really unfortunate. We were on a really good lap on the reds (alternate Firestone tire). The car was really, really nice. We worked really hard on this and it’s really frustrating. The 22 team, they don’t get to taste what the real potential of the car is and the team.
“It really is bad to start in the back like this, but at the end of the day, just have to keep working and we’ll smile at some point. There’s nothing else I can do.”
Despite his bad luck in qualifying two weeks ago, Pagenaud was able to climb to a seventh-place finish at St. Petersburg and noted that his car for this weekend’s race in Austin features a good amount of speed that should allow him to make the same march through the field.
In the three practice sessions leading into qualifying, Pagenaud clocked in with two seventh-place runs on Friday and a ninth-place on Saturday morning.
“It was definitely a winning car,” Pagenaud said of his machine from St. Petersburg. “I think this weekend we have something just as good. It’s a real shame. It is what it is at the end of the day. You just have to keep working, keep believing and it will pay off at some point. This certainly is one of the worst situations I’ve ever had. At the end of the day, just keep focusing, keep going.”