Photo: Chris Owens/INDYCAR

Pagenaud Takes Center Stage for Penske at Iowa Qualifying

By Christopher DeHarde, Staff Writer

NEWTON, Iowa — Simon Pagenaud’s pole position at Iowa Speedway is the fruit of what he believes is a better working relationship with his team than when he won the NTT IndyCar Series championship in 2016.

The Frenchman won the pole for Saturday’s Iowa 300 at Iowa Speedway with a two-lap average speed of 180.073 mph around the .875 mile oval ahead of teammates Will Power and Josef Newgarden in a Team Penske 1-2-3 sweep of qualifying.

“Definitely happy to be ahead of my teammates,” said Pagenaud. “Josef is [my] main competition this year. I’ve got to grab any points I can get, be aggressive, show authority. That’s what we’re trying to do with the 22 car.”

When Pagenaud won the NTT IndyCar Series championship in 2016, he had a strong start to the season followed by a challenging middle third of the season. After a less than stellar start, finding form has become almost second nature for the driver of the Menards Chevrolet.

“You just feel like everybody is giving it the extra mile,” said Pagenaud. “That’s what we’ve got to do. To be fighting for the championship these days in IndyCar, you just have to be perfect.

“I tell you what, we just have so much fun working together. I can’t say enough how good the atmosphere is on the 22 car. Then we work really well with the other two cars, as well.”

This is Pageuand’s third pole position of the 2019 season after the Indianapolis 500 and the Honda Indy Toronto. That trend should worry his championship rivals since he also won both of those races. It already has Power worried and asking for divine intervention.

“I haven’t been on that sort of roll for a long time,” said Power of Pagenaud’s recent form. “I haven’t felt that. But it’s amazing when it just goes your way, yeah. I don’t know how you get it or why it happens, but it happens, and it’s awesome if you can get that.

If you’re listening, please give me a chance, give me one, please!”

Power looked up as he spoke those words and will see if his prayers will be answered Saturday afternoon when the Iowa 300 airs live on NBCSN at 7:00 p.m. ET.

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A 2012 graduate of LSU, Christopher DeHarde primarily focuses on the NTT IndyCar Series and the WeatherTech Sports Car Championship. DeHarde has actively covered motorsports since 2014.