You see Simon Pagenaud do it often. He might end a TV interview by doing it. He may look at a fan’s camera and do it. And, he always does it during driver introductions at every IZOD IndyCar Series race.

Simon Pagenaud likes to remind people that he is always watching. You see him take his index and middle fingers, point them to his two eyes, and he then spins his hand and points toward the camera as to say, “My eyes are watching you.”

(See Pagenaud making his gesture at Mid-Ohio)

But who is he watching or what is he watching? No one is quite sure, and when asked, Pagenaud doesn’t offer any definitive answers.

The gesture can be used as an example of the focus he brings to Schmidt Hamilton HP Motorsports as the driver of the team’s No. 77 HP Dallara/Honda/Firestone machine.

It’s his focus that has Pagenaud sitting sixth in the IZOD IndyCar Series championship entering Sunday’s GoPro Indy Grand Prix of Sonoma. It is also his focus that has helped him finish 11 out of the 12 races in 2012 and 27 of his 29 career Indy-style starts.

With three podium finishes and sitting just five points outside of the Top Five, you have to wonder who or what Pagenaud will be watching during the last three races?

Driver: Simon Pagenaud (6th)
Hometown: Montmorillon, France
Car: No. 77 Schmidt Hamilton HP Motorsports Dallara/Honda/Firestone
Event: GoPro Indy Grand Prix of Sonoma
Date: Sunday, Aug. 26, 2012
Series: Round 13 of 15 in the 2012 IZOD IndyCar Series

SIMON PAGENAUD (Montmorillon, France)
Give us your impressions of the Sonoma circuit: “Sonoma is a fairly low-grip track which makes braking and traction tricky at this place. There is a great combination of high-speed corners, elevation changes and the tight hairpin! There are a lot of actions for every kind of driver out there, which makes it very difficult to put the perfect lap together. They have made some good changes to Turn 7, and this should be very good for passing.”

You’ve worn red driving shoes and blue driving shoes this season? You’ve even worn a one red and one green shoe during a race. What are your plans for driving shoes at Sonoma? “My plan at the moment is to continue with the Mid-Ohio combination since the green shoe seemed to ‘Go” well there! However, if the IndyCar fans have an original idea, maybe we could make something special happen for Fontana.”

Sonoma is wine country in the U. S. What is your favorite type of wine and why? “I love going to Sonoma. I actually just went for a bike ride at Mount Tamalpais, and I’m thinking about coming back for off-season training. It was awesome. I love everything about the area, especially the mountain views and the vineyards. It’s just perfect layout. My favorite wine is St. Estephe from the French vineyards; however, I have to say I really enjoy several Sonoma wines and some from Napa Valley. I like wine that is not too strong and with berry flavor, but it has to have the perfect level of sweetness.”

The last three races in 2012 are on a road course, a street circuit and a two-mile oval. Talk about the diversity in IndyCar race tracks. “Yeah, I truly believe that is what makes INDYCAR so unique and also such a tough championship to win! From road courses, to street circuits, to an airport, to short ovals and to speedways, it’s great for us drivers. There is always a great challenge to look forward to and the different disciplines keep fans interested throughout the season.”

“INDYCAR 36” Features Pagenaud
The next episode of “INDYCAR 36” on the NBC Sports Network will feature Simon Pagenaud and the Schmidt Hamilton HP Motorsports team. The Pagenaud show will premier at 7 p.m. ET on Saturday, Aug. 25, immediately following coverage of IZOD IndyCar Series qualifying for the GoPro Indy Grand Prix of Sonoma on the NBC Sports Network.

SSM Mid-Ohio Notes
*The GoPro Indy Grand Prix of Sonoma will be Simon Pagenaud’s 30th start in a major open-wheel race. He has 15 IZOD IndyCar starts and 14 Champ Car races under his belt.

*Though a rookie in the IZOD IndyCar Series, the GoPro Indy Grand Prix of Sonoma will be Simon Pagenaud’s second IndyCar start at Sonoma. Pagenaud raced in the 2011 IndyCar race at Sonoma for HVM Racing, filling in for Simona De Silvestro who was stuck out of the country. Pagenaud started 22nd and finished 15th, finishing the 75-lap race on the lead lap. Here is a short behind-the-scenes clip of Pageanud meeting his HVM team at Sonoma:

*In his 29 major open-wheel races, Pagenaud has finished all but two races and usually is on the lead lap.

*Pagenaud has been running at the finish in 11 of the 12 races in 2012.

*So far in 2012, there have been 1,558 laps of competition. Pagenaud, along with Penske Racing’s Helio Castroneves, has completed all but three laps. The pair has completed 1,555 laps to date, which is the most of all IZOD Indy Car Series drivers this year.

*A second-place spot on the podium in Long Beach is Pagenaud’s best finish of the season. He also finished on the podium in Detroit (3rd) and Mid-Ohio (3rd).

*Pagenaud leads the Sunoco Racing Fuels Rookie of the Year standings.

*Entering Mid-Ohio, Pagenaud has seven Top-10 finishes, including five Top-5 finishes.

*With the 23 laps he led in Toronto, Pagenaud has led in two races for a total of 49 laps in 2012.

*Pagenaud enters the GoPro Indy Grand Prix of Sonoma sixth in the IZOD IndyCar Series championship. However, he is only five points out of the Top 5. The top six in points are Will Power (379), Ryan Hunter-Reay (374), Helio Castroneves (353), Scott Dixon (351), James Hinchcliffe (316), and Pagenaud (311).

*The GoPro Indy Grand Prix of Sonoma will be the 72nd 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.

Broadcast Schedule
The GoPro Indy Grand Prix of Sonoma, an 85-lap race around the 12-turn, 2.31-mile Sonoma road course, will air live on NBC Sports Network, Sunday, Aug. 26 at 4 p.m. ET. The race will also be live on the IMS Radio Network and on XM 94/Sirius 212. Qualifications will be televised on Saturday, Aug. 25, at 6 p.m. ET, on the NBC Sports Network.

Social Media Information
For news and photos in real-time, follow Sam Schmidt Motorsports and Simon Pagenaud on Twitter.

Helpful social media handles:
@SSMIndy #GoProGP
@simonpagenaud #indycar2012