I had the chance to interview Simon Pagenaud, driver of the number 77 Schmidt Peterson Motorsports car in the IndyCar Series. He won the Rookie of the Year award in the 2012 season after coming over to the IndyCar Series from a successful sports car career, mainly in Europe. In the 2013 season, he came in third in the championship standings with wins at the second race in Detroit and at Baltimore and a podium at Mid-Ohio.
Isabelle Beecy: Given that this past season was your second full one in IndyCar, were you expecting to finish as high as you did in the championship standings?
Simon Pagenaud: I have always been racing to win races which is my goal each year, although sometimes depending on the situation goals have to be adjusted. I believe everybody on the team did an amazing job and we extracted 100% out of 2013. Of course after 2012 the goal was to raise the bar and set ourselves as championship contenders. Hats off to everybody at SPM for making it happen.
IB: What are you looking forward to most in the coming year?
SP: Extracting more out of myself is what fuels me and quite frankly coming back to the Indy 500! I have been working hard to get to this point as a driver and I feel I have a lot more potential. I'm very focused on reaching a new level.
IB: With the two wins this past season, do you and the team feel like you have momentum going forward?
SP: Yes we do, although winter time is when you have time to really dig deep and improve as a team. We know the competition won't rest and everybody is at task right now to come out strong in March.
IB: What do you think you'll most enjoy about the new road course in Indy?
SP: Racing in Indy for a month is really really great for IndyCar fans. This format will give the opportunity for Indy 500 fans to see and realize what the IndyCar championship provides – true diversity.
IB: What are the lessons you learned in ALMS and the Le Mans 24 Hours that you leveraged to IndyCar?
SP: I matured a lot while driving in sportscars. I also learned a lot from all of my teammates. I have been fortunate to work with the very very best whether it was in the US with Gil De Ferran and David Brabham or in the 24 Hour of Le Mans where all my teammates came from F1.
IB: Most of your career has been road/street. How do you like ovals?
SP: I really enjoy the challenge, and we have actually been very competitive on all ovals. To win the championship it is important to win on both. Oval racing is very technical and that's what I enjoy about my sports. It is very much all about details.
IB: How was your experience with your foster dog HufflePuff? Would you ever have another?
SP: It certainly felt great to help and give some love to Hufflepuff. It didn't take long until she was adopted and my girlfriend Hailey and I were very happy about that. Although I have to say it was emotionally difficult for us to let her go because we fell in love. With our life style it wouldn't be fair to adopt any dog with such a lack of routine. Yes, we may do it again though because it is for a good cause and we love dogs so much.
IB: What was the toughest part of filming the Acura commercial?
SP: Good question, first and foremost I was very happy to be a part of it. The hardest part was to stay awake and alert and keep a fresh facial expression. The shoot went on from 5pm until 5:30am and I was getting tired as we were filming overnight for better light play. I was really impressed with the level of details that goes into it and how precise my gesture and expression had to be. I enjoy it and hope to be involved in many more to come.
IB: What do you plan to do differently in 2014?
SP: After 2 good seasons under my belt it is now time to review what I'm doing well and what I can do better. I have some ideas on how to extract more out myself on a regular basis. I haven't shown my full potential yet, I'm still discovering and understanding myself. I have just started to scratch the surface.