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NASCAR Race Weekend Central

No Penske Pressure for Simon Pagenaud

Despite the assumed pressure of driving for Team Penske in the Indianapolis 500 for the first time on Sunday, Simon Pagenaud says he isn’t feeling any stress whatsoever due to having a car that he knows can win.

That wasn’t always a given over at Schmidt Peterson Motorsports, where Pagenaud won three races in three seasons and contended for championships despite lacking the elite equipment most commonly associated with Penske, Ganassi or Andretti.

Starting on the outside front row on Sunday, Pagenaud says he is actually empowered by the conviction that he has a car definitely capable of winning the Greatest Spectacle in Racing.

“The pressure, for me, comes from not having a car or not doing well,” Pagenaud said. “So if I have a car that can do well, I’m not so stressed. I’m going to bring my best game with a car this good. So I’m really the opposite from most people in that I only get nervous if I think it’s going to be difficult to pull off.

“If I’m in a position to win it, I get really excited about it and get excited to go do it and I am really excited about Sunday.”

The 31-year-old Frenchman called his first start at Indianapolis for Roger Penske a “milestone moment” and a great opportunity. He’s made three starts in The Greatest Spectacle in Racing with a best finish of eighth in 2013 for Schmidt.

Pagenaud is only in his third official month driving for Penske but really feels as though he and his crew are coming together and becoming a cohesive unit. It’s that synergy that he believes could make the difference in the closing stages of the race on Sunday.

“Everything is fantastic,” Pagenaud said. “It’s a great feeling. This a great opportunity for a driver and I hope to stay here for the next 10 to 15 years. I’m happy and this is going well, finding my place with the team.”

But even if this season doesn’t result in a championship or victory in the biggest race of the season, Pagenaud says he still doesn’t expect the pressure to start building. After all, this is only year one of what he hopes is the remainder of his career.

“This is only going to get better as time goes by,” Pagenaud said. “This month has been especially good because you spend the entire time with your teammates, crew members and mechanics. So you have to make it work and make it better and we’re only going to get better as this goes along.”