Pagenaud as confident as 2019 for Indy 500 despite qualifying woes

Simon Pagenaud says he feels "just as confident" for tomorrow's Indianapolis 500 as he was when he won the race in 2019, despite the Team Penske driver's struggles in qualifying.

Pagenaud as confident as 2019 for Indy 500 despite qualifying woes

The 2016 IndyCar champion will start Sunday's race from 26th on the middle of the ninth row, behind team-mates Scott McLaughlin in 17th and Josef Newgarden in 21st, while 2018 Indy 500 winner Will Power will start from the back row in 32nd.

But despite Penske's struggles for one-lap pace, which he said the team is "still trying to understand", Pagenaud reckoned he has as good a race set-up as when he conquered the Indianapolis Motor Speedway from pole two years ago.

Describing the car as "a beauty", Pagenaud said: “I feel just as confident as I was in 2019, but I’m not starting on pole so I’m going to have to do it in a different way. Hopefully we can come back.

“We were so extremely happy with the chassis, whether it was qualifying or race pace. We just have to find our way forward.

“It’s a different aero package [than in 2019] so the drafting is very different. If I find myself in the same position on the last lap, I probably won’t be able to hold the lead for example, because the suction is very strong for second place.

“There’s a lot of thinking about how you tackle the last 50 laps. [But] first of all, we have to crack the top 10 in the first 100 laps and find our way forward.”

In contrast to team-mate Power, who is planning for "a methodical day" to work his way through the order, Pagenaud said "there’s no strategy, we’re just going to have to go”.

Simon Pagenaud, Team Penske Chevrolet

Simon Pagenaud, Team Penske Chevrolet

Photo by: Phillip Abbott / Motorsport Images

Pagenaud explained that the mild temperatures “will allow you to play the game on downforce, which is really good for racing”.

“Some people will think about maybe having less downforce for speed, and some people with think about having more for passing,” he said.

“It’s going to depend on the chassis strength that you have. We feel very strong about our chassis, so maybe we can run less downforce.

“It’s probably a gamble I will take because we have to go forward, so that might be a good thing for us.”

“If it’s colder, you’re going to have a fun race to watch.”

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