By Luis Torres, Staff Writer
INDIANAPOLIS – Team Penske’s woeful weekend continued rearing its ugly head during Sunday’s post-qualifying practice for the 105th Indianapolis 500. Simon Pagenaud being the latest headliner following an mechanical problem over 25 minutes into the two-hour session.
While in a four-car battle with Colton Herta, Pietro Fittipaldi and Sage Karam, Pagenaud’s car began seeing puff of smoke. That puff at the entry of Turn 1 turned into complete smoke which Karam had a front row seat. Pagenaud would finally put the No. 22 Menards Chevrolet to rest at the entry of Turn 2. Some fire and oil leakage at the rear of his car symbolized the end of days for the 2019 Indy 500 winner.
Pagenaud didn’t felt anything once the issue became paramount and had to put a pause on battling second-place starter Herta.
“My spotter told me to back it down and heard the engine ceasing. I knew we were blowing up. I was racing Colton and had a good run. No problem, but it happens. Sometimes when you find speed it blows up.”
Despite a low point into the Frenchman’s weekend, his outlook was boastful and determined of being a threat for next Sunday’s Indy 500.
“It’s very good. We’re very happy,” said Pagenaud. “The conditions next week are going to be cooler which is going to help us. It’s going to add some downforce into the car. We’re in a good shape, but unfortunate to miss an hour and a half of practice that could’ve been useful. We’re also in a good shape because I’m happy with the race car.”
Pagenaud’s 26th starting position isn’t the lowest among the Penske stable. That went to Will Power, who’ll roll off 32nd which marked the team’s worst Indy 500 starting spot ever.
When NBC Sports’ Marty Snider asked Pagenaud if he can win from the ninth row, his comment was blunt.
“Hey, (Alexander) Rossi finished second behind me (in 2019) from 32nd. Montoya won from last (in 2015), so it’s possible,” said Pagenaud.
When practice was over, Pagenaud’s 221.683 mph was 28th quickest in a session that saw Alex Palou go quickest at 225.649 mph. The next time the 33-car field run at Indianapolis Motor Speedway will be Carb Day five days from now. Coverage begins on 11 a.m. ET on NBCSN and Peacock.