Simon Pagenaud’s life-changing month of May began last year with pole position for the Indianapolis Grand Prix, and backed it up with a win, then added another pole and win at the Indy 500. Whatever speed the Frenchman displayed on the IMS road course in 2019 proved elusive to find on Friday at the GMR GP, where his No. 22 Chevy ended time trials near the back of the field in 21st.
Team Penske teammate Will Power captured pole in the No. 12 Chevy, and reigning champion Josef Newgarden claimed sixth in The Captain’s No. 1 Chevy, which means Pagenaud and race engineer Ben Bretzman will have plenty of front-running data to use as they seek to join the other Penske cars by the end of Saturday’s 80-lap race.
“I said this morning we felt pretty good, and I think the adjustment we made went in the wrong direction,” Pagenaud said of piling too much aero onto his Menards-sponsored machine. “It comes down to downforce. If you decide to run less downforce when you let that rear wing down, there’s a lot of speed.”
Where some drivers complained of higher tire consumption rates than expected, Pagenaud believes the Firestones will offer enough durability to withstand the small cornering slides that come from using a low-downforce setup to gain time on long straights.
“I think we might have to do that tomorrow,” he said. “We’ll see. I thought the tire degradation rate was low, so that might help us to make that decision.”