Although Team Penske experienced some daunting qualifying days at Indy in 2021, Days before the race Pagenaud said he was confident his car in race trim was fast and “comfortable” in traffic and capable of running anywhere on the 4. .1-mile oval from Indianapolis Motor Speedway. It was, he said, akin to the 2019 car he won the race in.
Come on race day, he delivered, through 26e to finish third, less than six tenths behind winner Helio Castroneves his current teammate, and next to runner-up Alex Palou.
Asked by Motorsport.com after yesterday’s practice if he feels the same about the Meyer Shank-Honda in which he will start from 16e on Sunday, Pagenaud replied, “I felt like, okay, it’s close to where it was last year.
“The only thing I’m wondering is, everyone had a different level of downforce, so…I couldn’t estimate clearly in my eyes what downforce the guys following me had and was that normal for me to get that run or not to get that loop.
“Obviously in the race, when it’s hot, everyone will have about the same downforce level, as high as you can get. Then that changes things.
“This is the only question I have at the moment. I know how good the car is in the corner, which reassures me. I know where I stand, and that’s good. But it looks like there are some really fast cars on the straights, so we’ll see. We’ll wait until Carb Day.”
Pagenaud said he was careful not to be fooled by the cool, favorable conditions the field of 33 encountered during Monday’s two-hour practice, as this Sunday’s race is expected to run in ambient temperatures well north of 80°. f.
†[The car] tells you it’s going to be great, and it won’t be great, because it gets a lot hotter, and once it gets warmer, it gets a lot harder on the tires. I reserve myself with this…
“Certainly when the temperature rises, the downforce level changes, so yes, it’s still a tough one. I’m trying to process the whole session in my head now. You saw a lot of people with different levels of downforce, some people running way too fast in the front. So it’s hard to measure yourself against those guys who do that sort of thing.
“But yeah, I expect something completely different on race day.”