Simon Pagenaud is the name to know this season. The driver of the No. 22 Menards-powered Team Penske Chevy has back-to-back wins on the Streets of Long Beach and Barber Motorsports Park, and just achieved back-to-back poles at Barber and on the road course at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. His first two races of the season, the streets of St. Petersburg and Phoenix International Raceway, were podium finishes of P2.
To say that he’s on a hot streak would be a massive understatement. It’s hard to recall the last time a driver dominated at the start of a season, this extensively.
Pagenaud now leads the IndyCar Championship race by 48 points going into the Angie’s List Grand Prix of Indianapolis. The Frenchman tasted victory in the 2014 inaugural round at IMS, so it’s not a stretch to think he could do the same today, especially with the 22 team in their apparent “sweet spot” as of late.
“I hope tomorrow goes well. I feel just like I did in Barber, quite frankly. The car is quite similar in terms of how it feels. I also feel like if we can make turn one and be in the front after turn one, we’re going to be in good shape.” – Simon Pagenaud
Today’s Grand Prix is sure to be an eventful contest and I doubt we will see the lack of cautions that we’ve experienced throughout the majority of the last two rounds. We always hope for clean, safe racing but I’d be lying if I said that I haven’t been missing the competition shuffle and showcase of talent that gets exhibited during IndyCar series restarts. I want to see that today and I want the fans in the stands, on the viewing mounds and watching at home to be entranced by the show that these 25 drivers put on this afternoon.
Everyone was certainly entertained yesterday, when we were treated to a Firestone Fast 6 that included six teams – a first since 2014. It was also split 3/3 on the manufacturers side. They panned out as follows:
P1 – Simon Pagenaud (No. 22 Chevy – Team Penske)
P2 – Charlie Kimball (No. 83 Chevy – Chip Ganassi Racing Teams)
P3 – Graham Rahal (No. 15 Honda – Rahal Letterman Lanigan w Theodore Racing)
P4 – James Hinchcliffe (No. 5 Honda – SPM Racing)
P5 – Josef Newgarden (N0. 21 Chevy – Ed Carpenter Racing)
P6 – Jack Hawksworth (No. 41 Honda – AJ Foyt Racing)
But that’s not the starting grid. The qualifying results were amended as of 9:00 p.m. ET Friday night due to Rahal and Newgarden getting penalized for underweight cars. They will start at the back of the field, moving Hinchcliffe and Hawksworth up to P3 and P4 respectively; Kanaan and Montoya will now form Row 3.
Circling back to the qualifying rounds and the level of competition we saw throughout the field – it begs the point that maybe aerokits aren’t so bad, people… maybe we just need to give manufacturers and teams the time to “work out the kinks” if you will. If this is a peak at where the competition of IndyCar could be headed – getting tighter than it’s ever been – then my vote is: don’t change anything. And certainly don’t start from scratch. How is a move like that going to prove beneficial (competition-wise or financially) to teams, owners, drivers, or fans? It’s not like I actually get a say in this but, hey… my site, my opinions.
And here’s one more opinion, or maybe more of a prediction – the 2016 Angie’s List Grand Prix of Indianapolis is going to infuse some heat into this very chilly Saturday at IMS, but you should still wear your winter jackets. It’s a cold one today – and that’s coming from a Cleveland native.