‘Silver lining’ for off-contract Pagenaud

Simon Pagenaud

IndyCar Series veteran Simon Pagenaud will use the despair of missing out on a second Indianapolis 500 crown earlier this week to drive a crucial year-long campaign.

Pagenaud was one of the stars of the show on Monday morning (AEST), charging from a starting position of 26th to finish third, just 0.5626s behind race winner Helio Castroneves.

While shattered to miss out on the top prize, the result did elevate Pagenaud to fourth in the standings as he battles to secure his future; something he labelled “a silver lining” from the 500.

The 37-year-old is reported to be the only Team Penske driver without a contract for 2022, with team-mates Josef Newgarden, Will Power and Scott McLaughlin all set to stay on.

Pagenaud won both the 2016 series title and 2019 Indy 500 with the powerhouse team but endured a miserable 2020 in which he failed to record a top five finish in the last eight races.

It’s been a far better start to this season, with Pagenaud all too familiar with what’s on the line, having faced a similar contract situation two years ago.

The Frenchman said post-race he would “mourn my loss” before turning his attention to the season-long fight.

“It’s obviously great to be fourth… that’s definitely going to help me going forward,” he said.

“We’ve got some great things for Detroit (June 12-13) coming up.

“We know we have a strong car, street course. Excited about that.”

Pagenaud is the lead Team Penske driver in the points, with Newgarden sixth, McLaughlin ninth and Power – who in April signed an extension through 2023 – 12th.

Pagenaud did laugh that former team-mate Castroneves’ win at the age of 46 had added a decade onto his own career.

“It’s great. Helio just extended my lifetime here,” he added.

“I love it because I’m 37 this month, but I feel like I’m in better shape than I was when I was 22.”

The IndyCar season continues with a Detroit double-header at the Belle Isle Street Circuit next weekend, forming Rounds 7 and 8 of 16 in total.

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