There is nothing like rocking out to a favorite song while driving with the windows down and a cool breeze running through your hair, and that is the closest comparison Simon Pagenaud can find to describe driving through the Streets of Long Beach.
Pagenaud, driver of the No. 77 Schmidt Hamilton HP Motorsports Dallara/Honda/Firestone car, will return to the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach to back up his second-place finish at the course in 2012.
“The rhythm of this track is a little bit like a song,” Pagenaud said. “It’s similar to liking a certain song because it has a good rhythm. The rhythm I find with my car when driving that course makes it incredibly fun for me.”
The probability that Pagenaud will be humming the tune of a happy song increases when his Schmidt Hamilton Motorsports team returns to Long Beach, where their track record is strong. The 1.968-mile track is the oldest operating street circuit in the US, and it has been kind to Pagenaud over his racing career.
“We finished second last year, and we were really close to challenging Will Power at the end for the win,” Pagenaud said. “Hopefully we can have a similar or even better performance this year.”
While Pagenaud has a stable Long Beach rhythm, his Schmidt Peterson Motorsports rookie teammate Tristan Vautier is still seeking to find his comfortable beat. After claiming his first top-10 IZOD IndyCar Series finish two weeks ago in the No. 55 Schmidt Peterson Motorsports Dallara/Honda/Firestone car at Barber Motorsports Park, Vautier is still adjusting to racing in the series.
“I found it very challenging to get back in the rhythm after pit stops under green at Barber,” Vautier said. “You’re in your stint and in a rhythm, and then the pit stop kind of takes you out of it. I’ve been struggling to get back up to speed in the first laps following stops, and that will be my focus for improvement in Long Beach.”
Vautier has not missed a beat with his Schmidt Peterson Motorsports team, however.
“To be honest I feel like the team and I have been in a great comfort zone since the start,” Vautier said. “Obviously there are always some things you want to finely tune but everyone on this team is amazing to work with. It really makes me feel like good results rely on me giving good feedback so they can do the job they’re so good at. That’s a great position to be in and I couldn’t feel more fortunate to be here as a rookie.”
The Streets of Long Beach will come alive with the sounds of Pagenaud, Vautier and their fellow IZOD IndyCar Series competitors tuning their cars for the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach with practice on Friday, April 19 at 1:30 p.m. ET. The green flag drops on the race Sunday, April 21 at 4 p.m. ET.
For the latest updates from Schmidt Peterson Motorsports and Schmidt Hamilton Motorsports, follow @SPMindycar on Twitter.