Simon Pagenaud likes where the retooled Meyer Shank Racing team is headed.
After completing its final pre-season test on Tuesday at Sebring where Pagenaud and teammate Helio Castroneves went 1-2 among the 14 drivers in attendance, the Frenchman was brimming with confidence about all that’s possible in the new season.
“It was a really good day, but a tough day as well with the conditions with a lot of bursts of wind,” he told RACER. “I did not use Push-to-Pass to set my best lap, but I had new tires, but everybody puts the new tires on at the end of the day. And quite frankly, I don’t really care what the others think; what’s important is us and how well the entire day went for both cars. Me and Helio, we’re both learning the team’s chassis package, and what package suits the car the best and our driving styles. And we’re trying to find things to spice up the recipe of the setup and give us a bit more speed. So it’s very nice at the end of the day, when you try to squeeze speed and it’s there.
“It gives us confidence, gives us momentum when the start of the season is just next week. I really enjoyed myself driving the car and challenging myself with Helio. We work very well together in the process of moving things forward and extracting the best out of things. The two tests we’ve done in Sebring, quite frankly, were super positive. And that’s exactly how you want to end the offseason and go racing.”
The combination of Pagenaud and Castroneves – winners of 46 combined IndyCar races – should help MSR to add more victories to its tally after the Brazilian claimed the 2021 Indy 500 for the team owned by Mike and Mary Beth Shank and Jim Meyer. Even so, and despite the strong tests and the duo’s vast success in the series, Pagenaud would rather let MSR’s upcoming results do the talking than predict what might happen.
“It’s boring to say this, but I don’t want to set myself any expectations,” he said. “I want to be as much as possible in the moment, and then let myself extract the best out of today. Expectations is focusing on the results, but there’s so many things that can happen in between that you can’t control. So at this point, I’m feeling like, within what I can control, it’s competitive. Now, there’s a lot of things that I can’t control through a race weekend, but so far, I feel like we are going to be competitive. And competitive to me is winning races now.
“I think we’re going to be a dark horse for everybody else. I think that we’re going to be an interesting team to watch. And I hope we can surprise people. That’s really my mindset at this point. I just don’t want to set expectations for myself because ‘expectation’ is to me a dirty word. It drags you into the wrong places mental places.”