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Strong start helps Pagenaud keep eye on championship

Simon Pagenaud believes Schmidt Peterson Hamilton Motorsports has what it takes to challenge IndyCar's big boys for the title.

After winning Sunoco Rookie of the Year honours in 2012 and scoring his first two IndyCar Series wins in 2013, Simon Pagenaud is looking to contend for the 2014 championship.

Pagenaud, who has finished fifth and third in the standings in his previous two seasons, is the only driver apart from points leader Will Power to score top-five finishes in the first two races of the 2014 campaign. The strong start is a refreshing change for Pagenaud, who had to claw his way back into title contention last season after a DNF in the opening race.

"The fact that we started well is important, because at the end of the year every point matters," explained the Frenchman, who tested on the Texas Motor Speedway oval in the Honda-powered #77 Schmidt Peterson Hamilton Motorsports car earlier this week, "It's a dynamic - you want your team to feel that desire to win and be in a good mood and that's definitely where we are at the moment."

The Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama on 27 April is his next opportunity to challenge for a victory. Pagenaud made his series debut at Barber Motorsports Park in 2011 and has yet to finish outside the top eight at the road course in Birmingham, and clearly relishes his role as a driver from a little team consistently battling the heavyweights of IndyCar.

"It's good to feel pretentious enough to feel like we can compete with Penske, Ganassi and Andretti," Pagenaud said, "It's never too early to think championship. I think that's one of our strengths as a team. We've always been good at that. "

But he knows that, in order to achieve his goal of adding a Verizon IndyCar Series championship to the sportscar title he won in 2011, he'll have to beat the competition on a regular basis. But he says the team has all the pieces to do just that.

"It's our third year together," Pagenaud reasoned, "It's definitely clicking well. The pit crew is fantastic. The strategy is awesome and I'm driving well. I think we are position to get many wins – and wins are certainly going to be important this year.

“I think you saw that between [Scott] Dixon and Helio [Castroneves] last year. The points this year really reward wins, so we're going to have to win races if we want to be in title contention."



Related Pictures

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Simon Pagenaud (Photo by: Chris Jones for IndyCar Media)
Sebastien Bourdais with his son after winning Race 1 of the Honda Indy Toronto. (Photo by: Shawn Gritzmacher for IndyCar Media)
The red flag is waived halting attempts to start Race 1 of the Honda Indy Toronto on Saturday. (Photo by: Chris Owens for IndyCar Media)
Mike Conway and Team Owner Ed Carpenter celebrate victory in Race 2 of the Honda Indy Toronto (Photo by: Chris Jones for IndyCar Media)
Sebastien Bourdais gets a congratulatory hug from team co-owner Kevin Kalkhoven after winning Race 1 of the Honda Indy Toronto (Photo by: Chris Owens for IndyCar Media)
Chevrolet sweeps the podium with winner Mike Conway (center), driver of the #20 Fuzzy`s Ultra Premium Vodka / Ed Carpenter Racing Chevrolet IndyCar V6, celebrating his victory Sunday, July 20, 2014 during the second of two IndyCar Series races through the streets of Exhibition Place, in Toronto, Canada. Tony Kanaan (left), driver of the #10 Target Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet celebrates his second-place finish. Will Power, driver of the #12 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet celebrates his third-place finish. (Photo by Phillip Abbott/LAT for Chevy Racing)
Mike Conway, driver of the #20 Fuzzy`s Ultra Premium Vodka / Ed Carpenter Racing Chevrolet IndyCar V6, celebrates his victory Sunday, July 20, 2014 during the second of two IndyCar Series races through the streets of Exhibition Place, in Toronto, Canada. (Photo by Phillip Abbott/LAT for Chevy Racing)
Mike Conway, driver of the #20 Fuzzy`s Ultra Premium Vodka / Ed Carpenter Racing Chevrolet IndyCar V6, takes the chequered flag while racing to victory Sunday, July 20, 2014 during the second of two IndyCar Series races through the streets of Exhibition Place, in Toronto, Canada. (Photo by Michael L. Levitt/LAT for Chevy Racing)
Mike Conway, driver of the #20 Fuzzy`s Ultra Premium Vodka / Ed Carpenter Racing Chevrolet IndyCar V6, races to victory Sunday, July 20, 2014 during the second of two IndyCar Series races through the streets of Exhibition Place, in Toronto, Canada. (Photo by Phillip Abbott/LAT for Chevy Racing)
Mike Conway on his way to victory in the second round of the Honda Indy Toronto doubleheader on Sunday July 20 2014. (Photo by: Joe Skibinski for IndyCar Media)
Mike Conway jumps for joy after the second round of the Honda Indy Toronto doubleheader on Sunday July 20 2014. (Photo by: Chris Jones for IndyCar Media)
Mike Conway with the winner`s flag after the second round of the Honda Indy Toronto doubleheader on Sunday July 20 2014. (Photo by: Chris Jones for IndyCar Media)
Mike Conway, Tony Kanaan and Will Power celebrate on the podium after the second round of the Honda Indy Toronto doubleheader on Sunday July 20 2014. (Photo by: Chris Jones for IndyCar Media)
Mike Conway receives the winner`s trophy after the second round of the Honda Indy Toronto doubleheader on Sunday July 20 2014. (Photo by: Chris Jones for IndyCar Media)
Mike Conway, Tony Kanaan and Will Power pose for a selfie on the podium after the second round of the Honda Indy Toronto doubleheader on Sunday July 20 2014. (Photo by: Chris Jones for IndyCar Media)
Tony Kanaan and Will Power pose for a selfie on the podium after the second round of the Honda Indy Toronto doubleheader on Sunday July 20 2014. (Photo by: Chris Jones for IndyCar Media)
Mike Conway celebrates with the Ed Carpenter Racing team after the second round of the Honda Indy Toronto doubleheader on Sunday July 20 2014. (Photo by: Chris Owens for IndyCar Media)
Mike Conway celebrates after the second round of the Honda Indy Toronto doubleheader on Sunday July 20 2014. (Photo by: Chris Owens for IndyCar Media)

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