Pagenaud still has a lot to respond to after Indy 500 win

STEPHEN HAWKINS (AP Sports Writer)
The Associated Press

Simon Pagenaud still has more than 2,000 messages left from his Indianapolis 500 victory, and he plans to respond to every one of them.

Maybe next week, when the IndyCar Series takes a break.

''I'm going to catch up on all of my messages,'' Pagenaud said Thursday. ''I need to respond. ... So that will be my time to do that.''

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Pagenaud has been full-go since the May 26 win at the Brickyard with plenty of appearances, not to mention two more races at Detroit last weekend. There is still that invitation to visit the White House and maybe even an appearance at the NHL Awards later this month.

When he got to Texas, his No. 22 Penske team won a pit stop challenge on a downtown Fort Worth street before a scheduled two-hour practice session at the track Thursday night was cut short by a passing shower that was followed by an impressive double rainbow in the sky.

''I don't even know when was Indy. It's a bit of a blur. Detroit was a blur,'' Pagenaud said. ''Tiring, grueling in some ways, because you've still got to keep your emotion in check while you're representing the sport. Then Detroit, we just had to go through the weekend, quite frankly, to lose the least amount of points possible. Now we're back to business, I feel rested, I feel good.''

There was even time this week for a half day at home with his team engineer to get ready for Saturday night's race at the 1+-mile, high-speed oval at Texas that is the midpoint of the 17-race IndyCar schedule - with eight races already completed, and then eight more races after that.

Pagenaud, who also won the Indianapolis GP last month, said the focus can now turn to the championship chase.

The Indy 500 victory pushed Pagenaud from fourth to first in points. But after finishes of sixth and 17th in the two races at Belle Isle, the 35-year-old Frenchman slipped to third in points, 25 behind Penske teammate Josef Newgarden, the only other two-time winner this season.

''I think Detroit showed how quickly it can swing, and Indy as well,'' Pagenaud said. ''The momentum of my team is incredible. ... We got hit at the start (at Detroit), but nobody ever gave up. We had just won the biggest race in the world and you could see everybody was so eager to get back in the race. It was like a win. That's what's very special.''

Pagenaud finished fourth at Texas in 2016, then was third in 2017 before being the runner-up to Scott Dixon last June. The title sponsor of the Texas race is DXC Technology, also the primary sponsor for Pagenaud's No. 22.

''Obviously, it's more motivation to do well,'' he said.

There was a short yellow flag early in the Thursday night practice because of some sprinkles. There was no resumption after the later downpour, which drenched the track and ended the session to 41 minutes of green flag time.

Dixon had the fastest speed at 219.308 mph. Pagenaud was 16th among the 22 drivers at 215.001 mph.

With a week off the track after Texas, Pagenaud plans to get on his boat and put some music on, and ''just relax for a few days.'' He also will catch up on some of his fitness routine after not being able to get to the gym lately.

There are also all of those messages.

''I just feel grateful and blessed for my life, so I want to make sure people understand that I'm not going to change,'' he said. ''Those people that sent me messages are happy for me.''

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