Simon Pagenaud Puts Chevy on Pole at Toronto

Inside Track Communications

Simon Pagenaud will lead the 22-car field to the green flag of the 85-lap Honda Indy Toronto after winning the NTT P1 Award in the No. 22 DXC Technology Team Penske Chevrolet.

Pagenaud, who also earned the pole in 2017, recorded a quick lap of 58.4293 seconds (110.041 mph) on the 1.786-mile, 11-turn temporary street circuit in the Firestone Fast Six session.

“The car has just been amazing. The engine, Chevrolet, provided us a bit of an update this weekend and I think it’s really showing,” said Pagenaud, who was runner-up in the 2018 race after starting third. “I think the horsepower down Lake Shore (Boulevard) really helped to get pole. But also, just tying every corner so well together. It was just a great lap.”

Chevrolet drivers have started from the pole on the technical Exhibition Place course for seven consecutive years. This season, Team Chevy has six poles in 11 races.

Two-time Toronto winner and NTT IndyCar Series championship points leader Josef Newgarden will start fifth in the No. 2 Hitachi Team Penske Chevrolet. He reset Pagenaud’s track qualifying record for the current configuration with a lap of 58.4129 seconds in the second knockout session. Ed Jones, driving the No. 20 Ed Carpenter Racing with Scuderia Corsa, will join Newgarden on Row 3.

Since returning to NTT IndyCar Series manufacturer competition in 2012, Chevrolet has won six of the nine races and accumulated 17 podium finishes at Toronto.

The nine drivers powered by the 2.2-liter, twin turbocharged, direct-injected Chevrolet V6 engine will be on the track July 14 for a 30-minute warmup at 12:15 p.m. ET prior to the 151.8-mile race that NBCSN and Sportsnet One in Canada will telecast live at 3 p.m. ET.

An interview with pole winner SIMON PAGENAUD, NO. 22 DXC TECHNOLOGY CHEVROLET (second pole of season, 12th of career; also won pole at Toronto in 2017; two-time winner this season): THAT 58.4 (SECOND LAP) WAS STOUT.“That was a pretty good one. I predicted a 58.3, 58.5 this morning so I’m right in the middle. The car has been phenomenal all weekend. It’s not easy being at the back (on pit lane) because you start your laps in Q1 or Q2 and you’re at the back of the pack so I can’t get the tires going the way I wanted to and the traffic, so it’s quite difficult to transfer. But the Fast Six was perfect; I could get the tires up (to temperature). That was a lot of fun. I extracted the best out of it. This is the best you can feel in racing when you achieve what you expect.”

WHAT IS WORKING RIGHT WITH THE CAR THAT IS MAKING YOU SO HAPPY?“It’s the total work with Team Penske. As you know, it wasn’t as easy for me last year and it led us to search and the whole team improved massively on the street courses. You can see with (Josef) Newgarden’s win at St. Pete and the win in Detroit, so we’re showing speed. That’s all the work that was done in the shop. Then the work I did on my craft. After Indy now, I’m free to unleash myself and this is what you see. It’s definitely time to shine.”

IT LOOKED LIKE YOU HAD A PRETTY CLEAN LAP.“The DXC Technology car has been phenomenal all weekend, and it was a matter of just extracting the best out of it, getting the tires going, putting myself in a good rhythm. We had pace all weekend. We had a bit of a margin on everybody all weekend, but at the end qualifying, everybody goes out to the maximum limit, so obviously the lap time gets closer and closer and closer. Very difficult to actually qualify, going through the qualifying segment being so far back in pit lane because you can’t get your temperature in the tires because everybody is backing up. So I was really striving to just transfer and get enough heat in the tires in Q1 and Q2 there, finished my lap behind Sato in Q2 and luckily we transferred, but then once I was in the Fast Six I knew we had the car. We didn’t need to make any changes, and it was super fast. The last lap was definitely a little bit here, there, everywhere to try to extract the maximum amount out of the tires, and the engine was purring really well down the lake shore, and quite frankly it was one of my best laps in qualifying.”

IT WAS MENTIONED ON THE TELEVISION BROADCAST YESTERDAY THAT IT DIDN’T APPEAR YOU EVEN BROKE A SEAT.“The car is very consistent. One thing I explained this weekend is I was trying to get a car that’s versatile, that can be good on different asphalt, that can be predictable for me to attack and trust, and that’s really what it’s giving me this weekend, so that’s why you see me being so confident and being able to put laps down like I’m doing. It’s honestly a pleasure to drive this weekend. I’m having the most fun I’ve had in a long, long time. Actually, no, I had just as much fun in Indy. So it’s great to be in that kind of zone.”

WHAT WOULD IT MEAN TO YOU TO LAND A VICTORY HERE IN TORONTO?“It has been eluding me here. Like I said, and we talked about it, I’ve always been really fast here, but unfortunately the yellows have often been against me here. Last year was great. I finished second. But we certainly have way more pace this year than we did last year. I’m going to attack tomorrow. I mean, this is the end of the championship. It’s time to be aggressive, time to pounce on the table, quite frankly, and I’ve got to mark my territory. So tomorrow I’m going to go out and drive hard, and I can’t control the outcome, so we’ll just see what happens.”

DO YOU FEEL LIKE YOU’RE BACK TO THE WAY YOU FELT BEFORE MAY?“Yes, absolutely. Detroit was not fun. Detroit was not fun. I raced in 24 hours of Le Mans tired, but that was tired for too many days, which is a good thing. It is what it is. I’ve just had to take the time with Kristin Wiggs, my assistant, to reorganize the team around me and find a way to be a good ambassador for the 500 but also to have enough time for me to prepare. We’re getting there obviously. As you can see, we’re getting there. But it’s definitely a life-changing event and I’ve got to adjust and be the champion that I want to be for the 500. At this point I feel like May was great, but I’ve got other mountains I want to climb, and I want a second championship. Yeah, it’s time to go.”

HOW IMPORTANT IS PLE AT A TRACK LIKE TORONTO?“Pole is always important from an ego standpoint. You know, speed is speed, and we are racers, and you want to be the fastest, no question. Now, that doesn’t mean I’m going to win the race tomorrow, but certainly it puts me at an advantage. I’ve got the advantage to be up front and sliding through Turn 1 clear of anyone, and I’m going to try to take advantage from that. I certainly would rather start first than fifth and get collected in Turn 3. It is an advantage here because it’s difficult to race from back there, but anything happens in Toronto. I think that’s what makes it such an amazing race for the fans, that anything can happen until the end.”

SINCE MAY, WE’VE HEARD HOW YOU’RE ON THE ATTACK. IS THAT A DIFFERENT KIND OF GEAR THAT COMES FROM WITHIN?“I think you get to learn yourself within racing. That’s why this sport is so amazing to me. You get to learn how you function, how you think and what works for you, what doesn’t work for you. I think obviously I’m not a crasher. I think I actually have a record of not crashing in Indy car throughout my entire career. I have to believe in myself that I’m not going to crash even though I attack. So I found — in ’16 I just found that there was a certain level of aggressiveness that worked really well for me, but it’s not always easy to click into it. When it happens, it’s a lot of fun. But I’m certainly still developing. There’s no — it’s a funny thing. It just feels like there’s really no limit. The sky’s the limit. I really enjoy working on that mental side of things.”

TEAM CHEVY DRIVER QUOTES:JOSEF NEWGARDEN, NO. 2 HITACHI TEAM PENSKE CHEVROLET (qualified 5th): “I went for it in the Fast Six. I knew it was going to take a big lap and I just went for it. I was really aggressive in Turn 11 and got into the wall and bent the toe link. I went for it and tried to make it happen. Our Hitachi Chevrolet has been fast all weekend, it’s just been difficult to get clean runs. Simon (Pagenaud) did a great job, he’s been fast all weekend. We got a good starting spot. The top six is where you need to be, so now we can race. I think our race car is good. I just don’t have enough data yet. It’s good we have a warmup. That will help us. Just how strong are we gonna be? I just don’t know yet.”

ED JONES, NO. 20 ED CARPENTER RACING SCUDERIA CORSA CHEVROLET (qualified 6th): “It was a good qualifying session. We made a good jump up from practice and really made some solid improvements. It was great to be P1 in the first round and fourth in the second. Unfortunately, we didn’t quite have it on the older red tires, but we’ve still got to be really pleased with sixth. We’re starting back up at the front again and hopefully we can have a strong race tomorrow.”

SPENCER PIGOT, NO. 21 ED CARPENTER RACING CHEVROLET (qualified 9th): “It’s good to be starting inside the Top 10. I would have liked to have been a bit higher up, but we’ve had a solid car all weekend. We’ll make a few more changes and get the Autogeek Chevy a little bit better for the race. I’m really looking forward to the race.”

MAX CHILTON, NO. 59 GALLAGHER CARLIN CHEVROLET (qualified 13th): “It was unbelievably close out there today. We just barely missed out on advancing into the second round – we were actually only five hundredths of a second off from moving the No. 59 Gallagher Carlin Chevrolet into the top 12. We’ve come a long way in our damper program over the last few weeks and we definitely noticed a big change this weekend. It’s the first qualifying session I came into with no concerns about pace, which means I just didn’t get enough out of it for qualifying, but I felt like I did a really good job. This track is so unbelievably tight – it’s a proper driver’s track. I mean I was just watching the second round of qualifying on the screen and the amount of oversteer and understeer through these corners is quite amazing. We have some work to do tonight to make sure we’re in the best possible place for tomorrow, but I’m feeling good about our race pace.”

WILL POWER, NO. 12 VERIZON TEAM PENSKE CHEVROLET (qualified 15th): “I’ve had a bit of a rough weekend so far. We’ve taken some big swings in setup. We just didn’t get it today. I had some bad shifts on the lap that would have got us through. We just weren’t good enough. I think I lost a little confidence when I spun in the first practice there in 11. We are just a ways off. If there are yellows, we can make up the positions. We are hoping for one of those races tomorrow.”

MATHEUS LEIST, NO. 4 ABC SUPPLY AJ FOYT RACING CHEVROLET (qualified 19th): “It was a difficult day here at the track. I feel like we went through some stuff that we thought was going to work and it just didn’t. Then for qualifying we just didn’t want to risk it all again and take big swings on the car, so we stuck to what we thought was okay and that’s how we qualified. We also had a small problem before qualifying – my car wouldn’t shift – so, unfortunately, I didn’t get to do two runs, but it is what it is. I think we dint have the pace to advance even if we had done the second run so let’s work on the warmup tomorrow to try and figure out what’s the best car for us for the race and go race.”

SAGE KARAM, NO. 31 SMARTSTOP SELF STORAGE CARLIN CHEVROLET (qualified 21st): “My first street course qualifying since 2015 is in the books and it was definitely tougher than I thought it was going to be. I knew coming in it was going to be a pretty steep uphill learning curve that I’d be facing, but I think I just underestimated how much grip I’d get from the red tires and I didn’t take full advantage of that grip gain. Unfortunately, if you don’t hit it on a certain lap you aren’t going to get another opportunity to get as good of a lap time. It’s all just part of this weekend’s learning process – making sure I learn the car and the track and then moving onto really understanding the different compounds of the tires. I’d say for the most part it’s been a pretty good weekend even if it’s not showing in our results with the No. 31 SmartStop Self Storage Carlin Chevrolet but given the circumstance I think we’re in a good place heading into the race tomorrow. Anything can happen at this race, so we just need to keep our nose to the ground and keep pushing forward.”

TONY KANAAN, NO. 14 ABC AUPPLY AJ FOYT RACING CHEVROLET (qualified 22nd): “The way that the groups were actually cost us three positions in qualifying. We were quicker actually than four cars – the way they stagger (the lineup) – so it looks worse than it is, but I think we’ve been closer to the people we’re fighting for to be in the top 12 than we were in the past few weeks so I guess that’s a positive thing. Obviously, we still have a lot of things to work on, but all in all I think we found a direction which is what I’m banking on for tomorrow.”

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