AVONDALE, AZ – By virtue of the new Verizon IndyCar Series rules where on ovals, you now qualify in reverse order of the points standings in 2018. That meant because of his 13th place finish in the season opener at St. Pete, Simon Pagenaud went out 11th out of 23 cars on Friday evening at the ISM Raceway in Phoenix.
Pagenaud, is the defending race winner on the 1.022-mile track. The Team Penske driver knew that despite qualifying earlier than he wanted to, the speed would be there. Pagenaud, was second, third, fifth and eighth respectively in the test here back in February. In the first practice session of the day on Friday, he was quickest.
So, when he turned a two-lap average of 188.142 mph, some two mph faster than anyone else at that time, it wasn’t shocking.
But, his friend and fellow countrymate Sebastien Bourdais snatched the pole from Pagenaud’s French hands in the end.
Pagenaud, would remain on top for the next 11 qualifiers, until Bourdais barely went quicker and won the pole for Saturday night’s Desert Diamond West Valley Casino Phoenix Grand Prix (9 p.m. ET/NBCSN/INDYCAR Radio Network). While Pagenaud wasn’t thrilled he lost the pole, he was happy with who won it.
Now, he vows to get Bourdais back on Saturday.
“It was fun,” said Pagenaud after his qualifying run. “What a phenomenal qualifying session for our team. We were mid pack, and I knew we would go faster at the end. When you see the lap time hold on, you hope. The hope was strong. Congratulations Seb (Sebastien Bourdais). Very cool that we have a French front row on an oval. It’s rare. It’s very cool for him, too. He’s obviously having great success right now. Well deserved. It’s good for him, but we’re friends and want to beat each other really bad. He got me today, I’ll try to get him tomorrow”
Pagenaud, says that the race should run a lot like qualifying, which is very good news for him.
“But the conditions were a lot easier this afternoon. This morning was super tough. Very, very difficult, very greasy. The cars were sliding around, which actually I thought was good because driving was really difficult.This afternoon with the temperature going down for qualifying, it got better, everybody got better. It was easier to drive. I would say qualifying was not as challenging as this morning practice. I think the race is going to be quite similar to qualifying. The cars are fun to drive. So far I love it. Hopefully, we can bring another trophy.”