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Pagenaud Looks To Add '500' Title To Stellar Racing Resume

Simon Pagenaud has won championships in major open-wheel and sports car racing, including the Verizon IndyCar Series title in 2016.

The Frenchman has won races around the world, including 11 in his IndyCar career. He has won twice at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, capturing the INDYCAR Grand Prix in 2014 and 2016.

But there’s one blank line in Pagenaud’s stellar racing resume, and he knows it.

“It’s the biggest event in the world, what I wake up every day for,” Pagenaud said. “That’s where I draw my dedication from. That’s the race I want to win the most out of all the other races. That’s my passion.”

That race would be the Indianapolis 500 presented by PennGrade Motor Oil.

Pagenaud, 33, will attempt to make his seventh start in “The Greatest Spectacle in Racing” this year and his fourth straight with Team Penske.

The “500” has posed a big challenge for Pagenaud, as his only single-digit finish was eighth in 2013 with Schmidt Hamilton Motorsports. Otherwise, he has finished 16th, 12th, 10th, 19th and 14th.

Pagenaud’s best chance for victory came in 2015, his first season with the powerful Penske team. He led six times for 35 laps and was a contender for victory, running fifth on Lap 175. But Pagenaud’s front wing made contact with the rear of Justin Wilson’s car on Lap 176 while they dueled for fourth place, and Pagenaud dropped to 21st.

He still rallied to finish 10th, with bittersweet memories about the only year he has seen his name atop the Scoring Pylon at IMS during the Indianapolis 500.

“My favorite moment in Indy was taking the lead for the first time ever in my career, 2015,” Pagenaud said. “It’s just happiness, joy, excitement, and you don’t get to feel your legs anymore when that happens. I’ve had my lowest moment after that when the (chance for) victory went away.”

Speed and consistency never have been a problem for Pagenaud on the 2.5-mile IMS oval. He has qualified in the top eight three times, including a career-best third in 2015. He also has completed 1,199 of a possible 1,200 laps in his six career starts.

Pagenaud is 12th in the Verizon IndyCar Series standings this season after a slow start that featured no top-five finishes in the first five races of the season. But he’s still willing to risk the loss of championship points for his ultimate goal of earning a spot on the Borg-Warner Trophy and delivering yet another victory to team owner Roger Penske.

Much like Takuma Sato’s brave but ill-fated passing attempt in Turn 1 on the final lap against Dario Franchitti in 2012, Pagenaud is prepared to win it or wear it Sunday, May 27 on Race Day.

“It’s speed, excitement,” Pagenaud said of the Indianapolis 500. “To me, it means being a leader, going for the win, no matter what. First or nothing.

“(Winning the ‘500’) would be the accomplishment of my whole career. A life dream fulfilled. It would be incredible; it would be like winning the Lotto.”

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