Dubbed 'super-sub' after filling in for other drivers at short notice in 2011, then putting in an impressive full rookie season performance in 2012, now it's finally Schmidt-Hamilton Motorsport's Simon Pagenaud's turn to bask in the newly minted accolade of IZOD IndyCar Series race winner.
After the Sunday race, Pagenaud spoke to the press and was joined by team owners Sam Schmidt and Davey Hamilton.
We are pleased to be joined by our race winner, Simon Pagenaud.
Yeah, it was a crazy race. I think it's more we should say an amazing weekend. We really had some issues yesterday in the race. As you could see, it was difficult for Tristan and I. Qualifying compared dramatically to where we were before. The HP team is working hard and they make things happen.
Yesterday was difficult, but they worked really hard. My engineer, Ben, Rick, they were looking through everything, the data, trying to understand what we were missing. I think they went to the hotel at midnight, came back early this morning. They all looked pretty tired. But they said they thought they found it.
When I jumped in the car for the warmup, it was much better, much improved. They made some even bigger changes for the race. The car was incredible for the race.
I was on full attack mode for the race. My goal was to attack, go to the front, not look behind, which we did on every restart. We used a lot of Honda 'push to pass'. It worked.
We unfortunately got collected when Will had a loose moment in one. But luckily enough my reflexes are pretty sharp right now. I managed to avoid him. Damaged the front wing. They fixed the front wing and we were back out in contention. From that moment on, I was like, Just go for it, let's see what happen. We gained a position almost every lap and used the 'push to pass' again. We found ourselves in the lead by having such a fast car. Once we were in the lead, it was easier to push and do qualifying laps after qualifying laps. Have to say the hours in the gym really paid off today.
How does it finally feel to find yourself on top of the podium?
Well, first of all, the last two laps were very difficult. For me, I mean, I'm 29, just turned 29 during the Indy month. I started racing when I was eight. My goal was either Formula One or IndyCar. That's what I wanted to do as a human, as a person, that was my goal. My dad never believed I could do it until later when he found that I actually had talent.
He pushed as hard as he could to make it happen. My mom as well. So it's 21 years of hard work, you know, trying to have my dad believe I could make it happen first, then have sponsors helping me throughout the young years of my career, then have people like Sam and Davey believe in me when I was doing sports car. People like Honda obviously made this happen. It's 21 years of a lot of hard work.
The last two laps I was quite emotional in the car. It was difficult to stay focused. I kept saying, Keep pushing, keep pushing, don't lift. It worked out. When I crossed the finish line, it was a sweet moment.