On Feb. 18, 1910, a Frenchman proved to Texans that France does produce brave and daring men capable of accomplishing amazing feats. It was on that day that Frenchman Louis Paulhan completed the first manned flight of an aircraft over Texas ground.
Though the flight came a few years after the Wright brothers’ well-documented successful flight in North Carolina, Paulhan’s flight was historic for his country and Texas, where it took place.
Fast forward more than 102 years, and another Frenchman would like to make history in a brave and daring profession. Frenchman Simon Pagenaud, driver of the No. 77 Schmidt Hamilton HP Motorports Dallara/Honda/Firestone car, would like to be the first French driver to win an IndyCar race on the famed high-banks of Texas Motor Speedway.
Pagenaud will join the rest of the IZOD IndyCar Series drivers when they race Saturday night at Texas Motor Speedway (TMS) in the Firestone 550 race. Though a rookie, he enters the Texas race sitting sixth in points, but is only six points out of third place, currently held by Helio Castroneves.
Texas will only be the rookie’s second oval race, but it is not out of the question that Pagenaud could win. He practiced and ran well in his first Indianapolis 500, completing all 200 laps. In addition, Pagenaud passed his IndyCar rookie test at TMS in April, so he is familiar with the facility.
Pagenaud is not only now familiar with the TMS track and pit lane, he is up on TMS traditions and history. He wants to be the first Frenchman to wear the cowboy hat and fire the six-shooters in Victory Lane Saturday night.
SIMON PAGENAUD (Poitiers, France)
Though you are going from a street course (Detroit) to an oval, how can you carry the momentum from your podium finish to Texas?
“Having such momentum is always very important in this stage of the season. It is great for the team, the crew, myself and everyone working on this HP Program. We know the road courses are where we are strong, so scoring maximum points is important in our quest to a solid championship. My approach with the oval is to learn and absorb as much as possible to become an expert at this exercise.”
What was you first impression when you saw Texas Motor Speedway in April?
“It looked impressively banked and made me think of the gladiators arena.”
What were your impressions after taking your first laps around TMS in an IndyCar?
“On my first lap going into the banking was a funny feeling initially. The car went there, but my head was not quite there with it yet. It was a little bit like being on a plane which takes a sharp descent.”
What’s the last movie you saw and did you like it?
“The movie was French and called Polisse. It’s a movie on a police department unit that treats child abuse cases. It is quite a remarkable movie and highlights the dedication of this police department in their job and their value.”
You call your car ‘Matey’ and she even has a twitter account (@Matey77). At Detroit, you said Matey and you were dancing well. Are you and Matey prepared to two-step in Texas?
“I don’t think Matey would like to dance in Texas. It’s not a place where you can brush the walls or slide her around like Detroit. She did say she is ready to slingshot!”
What’s one thing you’ve heard about Texas that you’d like to experience?
“You will probably see me with a cowboy hat this weekend.”
Firestone 550 Notes
*The Firestone 550 will only be Simon Pagenaud’s second oval race in his career. The first was the recent Indianapolis 500 where Pagenaud completed all 200 laps and finished 16th.
*Before he could compete on an oval in the IZOD IndyCar Series, Pagenaud had to complete an oval rookie test in front of series’ officials. The rookie passed his oval test at Texas Motor Speedway on April 5 under the direction of IndyCar series director Beaux Barfield.
*The Firestone 550 will be Simon Pagenaud’s 24th start in a major open-wheel race. He has nine IZOD IndyCar starts and 14 Champ Car races under his belt.
*Pagenaud enters the Firestone 550 at Texas Motor Speedway sixth in the IZOD IndyCar Series championship with 171 points. However, he is only six points out of third place. Pagenaud trails Indy 500 winner Dario Franchitti and James Hinchcliffe, who are tied in fourth, by five points (176-171) and Castroneves in third with 177 points. .
*So far in 2012, there have been 610 laps of competition. Pagenaud has completed the most of all IZOD Indy Car Series drivers this year. He and the HP team have completed 609 laps of competition to date.
*Pagenaud joins Dario Franchitti, Ed Carpenter and E.J. Viso who have been running at the finish of every IZOD IndyCar Series race in 2012. Pagenaud also leads the Sunoco Racing Fuels Rookie of the Year standings.
*The Firestone 550 will be the 66th time a Sam Schmidt-owned car has lined up on an IZOD IndyCar Series grid. Schmidt Hamilton Motorsports co-owner Davey Hamilton was in the cockpit of the No. 99 car when SSM made its first race in March 2001 at Phoenix International Raceway.
*With Honda sweeping the podium at the Detroit Belle Isle Grand Prix, it has tightened the INDYCAR Engine Manufacturers championship. Chevrolet leads with 48 while Honda has 41. Lotus trails with 24.
Social Media Information
For news and photos in real-time, follow Sam Schmidt Motorsports and Simon Pagenaud on Twitter.
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Sam Schmidt Motorsports’ Texas Performance Profile:
Year Date Driver Start Finish Status/Laps Laps Led
2011 (1) 6/10 Alex Tagliani 1 4 Running, 114/114 1
(1) 6/10 Wade Cunningham 8 29 Accident, 92/114 0
(2) 6/10 Alex Tagliani 16 14 Running, 114/114 0
(2) 6/10 Wade Cunningham 2 26 Running, 112/114 0
2002 9/15 Greg Ray 19 14 Running, 196/200 0
9/15 Will Langhorne 23 22 Mechanical, 135/200 0
2002 6/8 Richie Hearn 15 9 Running, 200/200 0
2001 10/6 Anthony Lazzaro 17 13 Engine, 155/200 0
2001 4/28 Davey Hamilton 12 18 Accident, 52/200 0
Driver: Simon Pagenaud
Hometown: Poiters, France
Car: No. 77 Schmidt Hamilton HP Motorsports Dallara/Honda/Firestone
Series: Round 7 of 16 in the 2012 IZOD IndyCar Series