Sonoma, Calif – I’ve been told numerous times by numerous athletes across all forms of sports that the hardest fight for an athlete isn’t the climb to the top, but to stay there. Simon Pagenaud told me on multiple occasions this season that defending his 2016 Verizon IndyCar Series championship was among the hardest fights he’s ever had.
Well, he’s right.
Pagenaud, won the season finale at Sonoma on Sunday. It was the second straight year that he won at the northern California track. Last year, was his fifth win of the season to go along with his 10th top five and 12th top 10 finish in 2016.
This season, Pagenaud improved with 13 top fives and 15 top 10’s. He also became just the second driver in the history of the sport to complete 100-percent of the laps in a season. The Team Penske driver completed all 2,331 laps in 2017.
He also had 10 straight top 10 finishes to close the season, nine of which in the top five.
Those are championship winning numbers.
Instead, he came up 13 points short.
Josef Newgarden won the title while Pagenaud finished second.
That’s how tough this series is. Improve in nearly every aspect from a championship winning season and it’s not good enough.