Simon sits third in the IZOD IndyCar Series standings after winning at the Grand Prix of Baltimore last month. Doubleheader this weekend, three races to go, you’re strongly in the hunt for the championship. Is the championship your goal or are you just focusing on finishing the season strong?
SIMON PAGENAUD: I think the championship is the goal. We go racing to win races. We’re fortunate that we’re in a really good position. The team has been tremendous. The HP car has been really fast on street circuits lately. We scored two wins. I don’t think it’s time to give up. We’re going to try as hard as we can. It’s going to be difficult. We’re quite a ways down on Helio (Castroneves). But we’re going to try. If you don’t try, then there’s no reason to go racing. I’m excited about it. I think it’s going to be a great weekend.
Q: You mentioned that your car and team have been strong on street circuits. Baltimore, you won at the doubleheader in Detroit. What do you see as the biggest difference in your performance this year?
SIMON PAGENAUD: I think it’s a little bit of everything. As a driver you get to understand the racing, the race craft, how aggressive you need to be, when you need to be aggressive, when not, when you can shave some time.
So whether it’s in laps, out laps, the way you park the car in the pit box, those details are so important in INDYCAR nowadays. The competition is very, very intense right now.
Every little detail and more experience is always going to help. I drive better. I also have a better car. My whole team is broken in, I should say. We’ve been the same group for two years now and I think it’s just paying off really well.
Q: You have had a start in Atlantics and Champ Car at Houston. What do you remember of racing at Houston and does that give you a little bit of an advantage?
SIMON PAGENAUD: I don’t know if it does. It was quite a while ago. I remember the track being all concrete and quite bumpy, which should be similar to Baltimore. I’m hopeful that we’re not going to have to change the HP car too much to be fast. So I’m quite excited about it. There isn’t much testing on a doubleheader. You want to unload and be fast straightaway. I really hope that’s going to be the case so we have a good chance to fight back in the championship.
Q: For two years you’ve got some confidence going. Could you talk a little bit about what that’s like over a long season, what it’s like to build the confidence and how that helps you going into a situation like when you get toward the end of the season and you really need to get some more wins to get that championship.
SIMON PAGENAUD: You go through ups and downs during the season. It’s a long season. It’s not just 10 races, it’s almost 20. There are a lot of points available, a lot of points wasted also in bad races. The beginning of the season was tough, but it helped us as a team to just focus on what was essential. We bounced back. Lately we’ve been the strongest team, strongest combination with the most points scored in the last three. We just need to keep going. I think we’re going to keep the ball rolling. I’m just very, very excited right now. So excited, anxious to drive, and I’ve got nothing to lose. It’s very simple for me.
Q: Relating to your team, when you get good results, can you talk a little bit about how that kind of helps your team members who don’t often get the spotlight like you do.
SIMON PAGENAUD: I think when you have good results and a win, two wins in a season, first two wins of the team actually ever, the whole team is elevated. Everybody feels like they can work more hours, they can be more motivated. It’s not as tiring to work on a car that’s winning races. I think it’s also the excitement. I think everybody on the race team goes racing for the excitement and the passion we have about the sport. So I think it just pushes everybody so much.
Q: How do you approach the last three races — two street courses and then the oval at Fontana in a couple weeks? How do you approach those races in terms of what you want to do to improve as a driver and contend for the championship?
SIMON PAGENAUD: My approach is pretty simple. I just need to keep on pushing as hard as possible. I think as long as we’ve got a fast car that we’ve had lately, I think we have a good chance, a good chance to contend for wins. I want to try to win at least one in Houston. If Houston is a good weekend, that will be our chance for the championship. My approach is simple. It’s to attack, and I’ve got nothing to lose, unlike Helio, who has a lot more to lose than me. It’s really simple on my side. I can put pressure on him, I can be aggressive. I kind of like the position of a hunter.
Q: Looking at Fontana, the 500-mile race out there, an oval, I know you had the test out there. Talk about your expectations for Fontana.
SIMON PAGENAUD: Fontana is a great oval. I really love it. It’s very banked. There are a lot of different lines you can use on the racetrack. It’s perfect for passing, perfect for racing. It’s going to be a long, long race in the night. So cars are going to change throughout the 500 miles. It’s a track that I really like. So I’m positive about it. It’s somewhere we were competitive last year. We were pretty good at the test. Same thing, just stay out of trouble at the beginning, but I’m going to have to move forward and stay at the front to have a chance in the end.
Q: I’m curious, do you see yourself as the underdog coming into these last three races? If so, do you relish to role, enjoy it?
SIMON PAGENAUD: I enjoy my position right now. I enjoy it because nobody saw us coming. That’s pretty enjoyable. It’s not like we’ve not been competitive, but the tendency is to look at the big teams, the big names.
I’m proud to be part of the HP team and show that we’ve put our head down and we’re here. We’re within the mix between one Penske, one Ganassi, and two Andrettis. I’m very proud of the team.
Whether we finish fifth in the championship or first, I’m very proud of them. I’m actually excited to be here seen as the underdog. But I really don’t feel like one. I feel like I have all my chances. It’s up to me to drive as hard as possible this weekend and score maximum points to catch up on any of them.
Q: I asked a question to Kyle Busch at NASCAR. He is in third position over there. You’re in third position here in INDYCAR. I asked him how he looks at the points system. He says he doesn’t look at the points at all, doesn’t care about them, all he cares about is what his team is doing, how he can perform and get that done on race day. Do you have a similar type situation? Do you look at the points the same way?
SIMON PAGENAUD: I’m usually quite pragmatic. I’m usually the one that is going to calculate every scenario. I feel fortunate we’re in such good position. I honestly think if I only worry about myself, this is going to be the best thing I can do. Go forward, think about my car, think about how much I can extract out of it, try to go for the win. That’s all I can do. I can’t really think about being second or Helio being third or Helio crashing and me winning. I can only go try to win, otherwise there are too many factors in play. Yeah, I would totally say that’s exactly my approach.