By Christopher DeHarde, Staff Writer
LONG BEACH, California– Simon Pagenaud has been on the hot seat at Team Penske in 2019. The 2016 NTT IndyCar Series champion has been overshadowed by teammates Will Power and Josef Newgarden but scored his best finish so far in the 2019 NTT IndyCar Series season with a sixth place finish in the Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach.
Starting fifth, Pagenaud stayed in the top ten throughout the 85 lap race but got jumped at the start by Ryan Hunter-Reay and Graham Rahal. From then on, the only break Pagenaud caught during the race was when Power missed his braking point into Turn 1 on Lap 34 and Pagenaud climbed to sixth place, a place he held for nearly the entire rest of the race.
“It was the best we could’ve done today, quite frankly,” said Pagenaud. “We lacked a little bit of pace in general. We went a bit conservative, maybe a bit too much on the setup, I don’t know. The car felt pretty good at the end but we just lacked a tiny bit of pace to go fight against Rossi for example so we’ve just got to keep working on it. Certainly I think today was the best we could’ve done so no regrets, I think we did everything we could quite frankly so we’ve just got to keep working.”
Pagenaud and the rest of the Chevrolet brigade were almost fighting at a disadvantage this weekend. Throughout all three practice sessions, the No. 22 DXC Technology Chevrolet was the fastest Chevrolet-powered car in two of the sessions (eighth in session one, fifth in session three) but had a wall of Hondas to deal with up front.
“We’ve got to keep working on the pace, it’s a team effort,” said Pagenaud. “I mean when I won my championship, Chevrolet were there for me, best aero kit, best engine, best everything and sometimes you’ve just got to work at it and make it better. I don’t know, I don’t think they’re to blame or anything like that, we’ve just got to work.
“There’s always high expectation, you always want to win races. We’re not here to be sixth or fifth, the goal is to win races but at the end the goal is to win the championship so at this point the season’s just really started. I think we have good momentum going into the Indy Grand Prix, it’s a great track for us and obviously Indy is a very exciting month so we’ll just keep digging, that’s all you can do.”
Pagenaud won the INDYCAR Grand Prix at Indianapolis in 2014 and 2016 and will be looking to continue Team Penske’s run of success at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course of four straight wins. The INDYCAR Grand Prix is on May 11th.