Simon drives the No. 77 Schmidt Hamilton HP Motorsports Honda and is currently 10th in the IZOD IndyCar Series points standings after posting four top-10 finishes to start the season.
Simon finished eighth in the Indianapolis 500 on Sunday and will make his second and third IndyCar starts at the Raceway at Belle Isle Park this weekend in the Chevrolet Indy Dual in Detroit presented by Quicken Loans.
Simon, you started the season off with a DNF, but rebounded nicely with four straight top-10 finishes. How important is the doubleheader at Detroit to your season?
SIMON PAGENAUD: Well, certainly it has been an interesting season for everybody, I think. For the (IZOD) IndyCar (Series) championship also. There’s a lot of new faces on the board.
All the teams have raised their games. Everybody is doing a great job. It’s interesting to see how it’s going at the moment. We’re very happy with four top-10 finishes. Hopefully we can continue to go forward on the ladder.
This weekend is going to be very, very important. Two races in one weekend, that’s a lot of points, and a good opportunity for us to march our way through.
Q. You finished on the podium last year in Detroit. The course has been changed a little bit from what it was last year. Do you have all the tools capable of getting back to the podium or even winning your first race?
SIMON PAGENAUD: Well, as I said, all the teams have improved a lot. We did improve also. But it’s certainly a lot tighter than it was last year. There’s a lot more drivers and cars capable of winning, which makes it difficult for everybody to expect finishing on top of the podium.
That’s certainly the goal. When you go racing, you go and expect to win. So the goal for Detroit is to show up there and be as competitive as we were last year, hopefully qualify in the (Firestone) Fast Six, try to contend for the win in both races.
Q. The doubleheader, the format poses a new challenge for you. Obviously there’s two races. Qualifying is on Friday, For Saturday, it’s not knock-out qualifying, but straight qualifying session on Saturday and then the race, then you race again on Sunday. You come from a background of endurance racing. Have you been taking an endurance racing approach to two races in 24 hours?
SIMON PAGENAUD: It’s going to be physically and mentally very demanding, not only for the drivers but for the crew and for the car. The biggest thing is if you crash in qualifying, then you can’t really go racing.
It’s going to be very important to take as much risk as possible without crashing the car because that would be quite dramatic on the event itself.
I’m looking forward to it. There’s a lot of points available, obviously. Detroit is a race track I really enjoy being at, driving on. So, yeah, it should be an interesting weekend.
But the approach, it’s still to attack as much as possible, because that’s what everybody is going to do.
Q. Working with Tristan (Vautier), working with a teammate, how much has that helped you? How much does he help you and how much do you help him?
SIMON PAGENAUD: It’s certainly a big help on the road courses. We have twice as much data, so that’s twice as much information for the engineers. It certainly helps the car get better quicker. That’s a good thing for me.
Tristan is also a very fast driver. His driving style is sometimes very interesting depending on the corners. It helps me improve myself, iron out all the details, as it’s so competitive right now. Every little thing is so important.
In that sense he’s definitely helping me a lot. It’s great to see the team expanding. It’s great to have new engineers on board like Allen McDonald. It helps our engineering group to expand and to find new ideas.
It’s a good addition. But as with every team that’s growing, it takes a little bit of adjustment. That’s what we’ve been doing so far. The team has been working really well at Indy together.
Q. Simon, I have to ask you one question about your foster dog, HP (Huffle Puff). With all the attention that HP got at Indy, was she able to find a home?
SIMON PAGENAUD: She’s still at home at the moment. We’re enjoying her company. She might be on our way to Detroit with us tomorrow morning. We have her for a little bit longer. It’s great to have a pup here. I can tell you when you’re having a rough day at the racetrack, it’s pretty awesome to have a dog waiting for you because the dog doesn’t really know what happened during the day. Always happy to see you. That’s a joy, for sure.
The travel makes it difficult (to have a dog). But HP, she’s had a lot of solicitation, a lot of people wanted to adopt her. She won’t have any issues finding a home. Hopefully we can find the best home for her, and that would make me really, really happy.
It would be great for the Indy Humane Society. I really hope to keep my involvement with them and continue in that way.