By Luis Torres, Staff Writer
INDIANAPOLIS – Heading into Sunday’s 107th Indianapolis 500, Meyer Shank Racing are looking to turn things around as the two-car organization have had little to celebrate in recent memory.
For 2019 Indy 500 champion Simon Pagenaud, he’s had an knack of running stellar at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
In 11 previous 500 starts, Pagenaud has completed 2,197 of 2,200 laps. That’s all but three laps.
Through it all, Pagenaud’s Indy 500 career is highlighted by his aforementioned win from the pole in 2019, and a third in 2021.
However, Pagenaud’s task will be tough as he’ll roll off in 22nd, the spot of his worst Indy 500 result in 2020 where he finished two laps behind race winner Takuma Sato.
Despite the large task at hand, Pagenaud’s confidence is apparent. His goal is to win the race, knowing that if he didn’t felt like he can win, the Frenchmen wouldn’t be at Indy right now.
“I do feel like I can win,” said Pagenaud. “I’m confident in my chances more than usual because in practice me and the car showed to each other that we could do it. We have a bit of a weakness and it’s our top speed. So you’ve gotta be aware of that and play with it. I’m aware of it. It doesn’t bother me because I’m not focused on that. I don’t have the top speed.
“What do I need to do to still pass people and be there? I think we figured it out in that practice. We still have some work to do on making sure we cover all our bases before the race. Understanding what downforce we need to be at for the race, depending on the condition. I already kind of know what I need for the race.
“Lap 20, I need to be in top-10.
“Lap 150, I need to be top-five.
“Lap 170, I need to be top-three.
“And then if I’m there, you better count on me.”
The Indianapolis 500 is unlike any motor racing event where winning the race require different variations. Pagenaud explained speed is important because it allows a competitor to position themselves for the win. But that’s only just the beginning of what a racer deals with throughout the 200-lap race.
Mistakes must be kept at an absolute minimum due to the intense competitive nature INDYCAR has been.
“You need to get every pit stop perfect. You need to get every single positioning into your box perfect. You need to get your restart right. You need to get your gears correct,” said Pagenaud.
“There’s so many things — conditions changes and you need to make zero mistakes over 500 miles. It’s the balance between being a 100% intense and on the limit and being just right for the win or too much is very small.
“With the level that the series is at right now with the talent on the teams and the drivers, that’s gotten even narrower. So the margin between being perfect and making mistake is terribly small.”
A prime example of Pagenaud’s confidence was when he was dealing with race traffic. His No. 60 SiriusXM/AutoNation Honda has been able to outshine some of the faster cars due to solid car handling and chassis. Confidence does come a long way and Pagenaud wasn’t bashful about it.
“My handling is there no question. I’ve got a chance to win the race now. I don’t have the speed. So if I found myself in the lead, I won’t hold the lead very long,” said Pagenaud.
“But if I can keep up with a faster car like (Alex) Palou, then I still have a shot because the draft is so strong. But it will take for me to time my passes really well to have a chance to win it. I followed (Benjamin) Pedersen for awhile and he’s got a rocket ship, and I was able to pass him despite the lack of our speed and that was because our chassis was so good.
“I’m confident in our chances here, very confident.”
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