LONG BEACH, Calif – The last two weeks, Team Penske driver Simon Pagenaud had race winning cars. Unfortunately, he has zero top five finishes to show for it.
In Phoenix, Pagenaud had a bad first pit stop as he entered pit road in the top three. He’d exit 12th. The Frenchman would never be able to make up for it as he’d finish 10th as a result. On Sunday in Long Beach, the 2016 race winner started third and made a great move on the drop of the green flag to move up into second place. His teammate, Will Power, would look to the inside of him again heading into Turn 1 after. Pagenaud, would slow a bit to play nice, but Graham Rahal punted him from behind, sending him into the outside concrete barrier in the first corner.
Pagenaud, said that the damage was repairable, but they would have to wait to get his car back to pit road, seemingly ending his day with a last place, 24th place finish. His day ended in Turn 1 on lap one. It was his second worst finish ever in the series, as the last time he finished 20th or worse was in the INDYCAR Grand Prix when he finished 25th in 2015.
“Terrible day,” said Pagenaud. “We didn’t even make one corner. We had a really good start, blocked the run, I went to the outside and we had a good braking point. We were going to be three-wide and I was three-wide on the outside. It’s not like I went on the brake early, and (Graham) Rahal forgot to brake. It was a shame, we had such a competitive car and a fast car all weekend. I feel bad for the DXC Technology people here. The biggest shame is that we can repair the car and go back to earn valuable points for my championship, but the decision from INDYCAR on the stand is very costly for me today.”
Now, Pagenaud needs to quickly pick up the pieces and get back on track. Literally. This is his worst start to a season ever. Last year for example, he had five straight top five finishes to start 2017 off with. He’d have eight in his first 10 tries.
In his 2016 championship winning season, Pagenaud had five straight top two finishes to start the year off. In 2015, he had two top five in his first four starts, while in 2014, he had four straight top five finishes to start the year off too.
13th, 10th and 24th place finishes respectively. That has him 15th in the points standings heading to Barber next weekend. He’s 82 points out already.
Last year, he completed 100-percent of the laps in the entire season. The last time he didn’t finish a race on the lead lap?
Pocono in 2016.
Pagenaud is certainly frustrated.
From 2014 though 2017, in 12 races (1st 3 races in each season), Pagenaud had eight top five finishes. He has zero in that same time frame in 2018.