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IndyCar Indy 500

Pagenaud almost as happy with Indy 500 car as last year

Simon Pagenaud has changed teams and engine manufacturer for 2022, but says his Meyer Shank Racing-Honda is “close” to being as strong as his shockingly quick Penske-Chevy in last year’s Indianapolis 500.

Simon Pagenaud, Meyer Shank Racing Honda

Although Team Penske endured dispiriting qualifying days at Indy in 2021, Pagenaud said days before the race that he was confident his car in race trim was fast, ‘comfortable’ in traffic and able to run anywhere on Indianapolis Motor Speedway’s 2.5-mile oval. It was, he said, akin to the 2019 car in which he won the race.

Come race day, he delivered, scything through from 26th to finish third, less than six-tenths behind winner Helio Castroneves his current teammate, and alongside runner-up Alex Palou.

Asked by Motorsport.com after yesterday’s practice session if he has the same feeling about the Meyer Shank-Honda in which he’ll start from 16th on Sunday, Pagenaud replied: “I felt like, OK, it's close to where it was last year.

"The only thing that I'm questioning is, everybody had different level of downforce, so… I couldn't gauge in my eye clearly what downforce the guys following me had and was that normal for me to get that run or not get that run.

“Obviously in the race if it's hot, everybody is going to be pretty much on the same downforce level, as high as you can get. Then that will change things.

“This is the only question I have at this point. I know how good the car is in the corner, which reassures me. I know where I'm at, and that's good. But it seems like there are some really fast cars out there on the straightaways, so we'll see. We'll wait until Carb Day.”

Pagenaud said he was being careful not to get misled by the cool, favorable conditions the field of 33 encountered in Monday’s two-hour practice, since this Sunday’s race is currently being forecast to run in ambient temperatures well north of 80degF.

“[The car] is telling you it's going to be great, and it's not going to be great because it's going to be a lot warmer, and as soon as it gets warmer, that's making things a lot more difficult on the tires. I'm reserving myself on this one…

“Certainly with the temperature going up, the downforce level changes, so yeah, it's still a tricky one. I'm trying to process the whole session in my head right now. You saw a lot of people with different level of downforce, some people running way too fast in the front. So it's difficult to gauge yourself against those guys doing stuff like that.

“But yeah, I'm expecting something a lot different on race day.”

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