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Apr 18, 2014 - 06:00 AM
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IndyCar News And Notes - April 17, 2014
Posted by: newsla on Apr 18, 2014 - 05:57 AM
IndyCar News
IndyCar News And Notes - April 17, 2014


Today's Verizon IndyCar Series and Mazda Road to Indy headlines:

1. Strong start helps Pagenaud keep eye on championship

2. Montoya gets up to speed at Texas

3. Penske team reaps rewards at Long Beach

 

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1. Strong start helps Pagenaud keep eye on championship: Simon Pagenaud is ready to take the next step in his racing career.

After winning Sunoco Rookie of the Year honors in 2012 and scoring his first two Verizon IndyCar Series wins in 2013, the Frenchman is looking to contend for the 2014 championship.
Pagenaud, who has finished fifth and third in the standings in his previous two seasons, and points leader Will Power are the only drivers to score top-five finishes in the first two races. 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," said Pagenaud, who tested April 16 on the Texas Motor Speedway oval in the Honda-powered No. 77 Schmidt Peterson Hamilton Motorsports car. "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 April 27 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, Ala.

Pagenaud 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 in order to achieve his goal of adding a Verizon IndyCar Series championship to the sports car title he won in 2011 he'll have to beat the competition on a regular basis. He says the team has all the pieces.

"It's our third year together," Pagenaud said. "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.
"But 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."

2. Montoya gets up to speed at Texas: A test day at Texas Motor Speedway on April 16 provided Juan Pablo Montoya his first taste of a Verizon IndyCar Series car on the high-banked oval.
Montoya said though he's getting more comfortable in his return to Indy car racing, he's still adapting.

"It's still hard," Montoya said. "(Testing at) Sebring was a lot simpler because I had only been there in an Indy car. I know it was a long time ago, but because it's still an Indy car, I knew the reference points. But here, and places I've been in a Cup car, you are used to lifting and braking and all of that. You have to remind yourself that you can run wide open. It's hard and it's fun, but so much quicker."

3. Penske team reaps rewards at Long Beach: Team Penske claimed both the Firestone Pit Performance Award and Sunoco Fastest Lap Award at the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach on April 13.
The No. 12 Verizon Team Penske car driven by Will Power earned the Firestone Pit Stop Performance Award for the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach and its $10,000 prize.

Firestone presents $10,000 to the entrant of the car in pit lane the shortest amount of accumulated time during each Verizon IndyCar Series event. Cars must complete 95 percent of the race to be eligible.

Helio Castroneves in the No. 3 AAA Southern California Team Penske car posted the quickest race lap (1 minute, 9.0691 seconds) on the 1.968-mile, 11-turn Long Beach temporary street course to earn $5,000 from Sunoco, which presents its prize to the entrant of the driver who completes the fastest lap of the race.
***

The next Verizon IndyCar Series race is the Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama on April 27 at Barber Motorsports Park in Birmingham, Ala. The race will be televised live by NBCSN at 2:30 p.m. (ET) and broadcast by the IMS Radio Network, including Sirius and XM Channels 211 and the INDYCAR 14 app for most smartphones and tablets.

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