Simon Pagenaud wraps up IndyCar’s top rookie award
Simon Pagenaud spent his Sunday afternoon in wine country barely
avoiding spun-out cars. When he finally crossed the finish line, he
got an award for his dexterity.
Pagenaud formally clinched IndyCar’s rookie of the year award
Sunday with his seventh-place finish, easily outdistancing the rest
of the first-year drivers.
”That’s pretty cool,” Pagenaud said. ”It was one of our goals
for the year, so we can check that box. (And) we are now fifth in
the championship, so we are very proud of those
The French driver did it despite incurring damage on his front
wing early in the race, praising his pit crew for changing the nose
”I was hoping to get a top-four position, but we got boxed in
… on the last restart,” Pagenaud said. ”Those things
James Hinchcliffe edged out J.R. Hildebrand for the rookie award
last year. Hinchcliffe completed only 35 laps before mechanical
problems shelved him.
SPEEDY SWIMMER: When Tyler Clary’s swimming career is finished,
the Olympic gold medalist wants to go even faster.
The 200-meter backstroke champion in London spent a busy weekend
at the Sonoma track, soaking up information and atmosphere in hopes
of starting an eventual second career as a race car driver.
”To be here, talking to team owners and drivers, it’s a huge
privilege and an honor,” Clary said. ”And it’s even cooler to see
some of the drivers look at me the same way I look at them.”
Clary made a few trips around the road course in various
vehicles, including a ride Sunday that tantalized him.
”That’s the first thing I said when I got out of the car: `I
could definitely make this a lifestyle,”’ Clary said Sunday,
Clary was joined in Sonoma by fellow gold medalists Dana Vollmer
and Erin Cafaro, two former University of California athletes.
Vollmer set a world record in the 100-meter butterfly in London,
and Cafaro – who got a ride with Mario Andretti that left her ”a
little spinny” – won her second straight gold in the women’s eight
Clary grew up in Southern California with a fascination for
motor sports alongside his passion for the pool. His
elementary-school swim team had a merchandise booth during NASCAR
weekends at the Fontana track near his native Riverside, Calif.,
and he spent countless weekends out in the California desert
”trying to race something.”
Clary, who made waves before the Olympics for his criticism of
Michael Phelps’ work ethic, realizes it’s a bit presumptuous of him
to assume he can swiftly do what drivers spend their lives figuring
out, but he thinks it isn’t impossible to extend athletic talent
into multiple arenas.
”At the pinnacles of performance, it’s overly mental,” Clary
said. ”If you have the right mindset and the right drive to do
something … you can kind of carry that over to other sports. One
thing people don’t realize is how in shape you have to be to drive
these cars and endure the heat for hours on end, and I think I’m in
shape to do that, and I think I have the right mental state. It’s
just going to come down to refining those skills.
”Can I do that? I don’t know. Am I going to take a great shot
at it? Absolutely.”
Clary cited Formula One’s Sebastian Vettel among his favorite
drivers, but didn’t want to pick a race winner. He was impressed by
meeting J.R. Hildebrand, who immediately gave Clary his cell phone
number in case he ever had questions or needed help.
”That meant a lot to me, that it wasn’t just another hand he
was shaking,” Clary said. ”He was genuinely interested in what
was going on and wanted to help me.”
THE BOSS: Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson served the grand
marshal of the Sonoma race, and the former NBA star enjoyed his
first prolonged exposure to motor sports at the track roughly 60
miles from his hometown.
”There’s a lot of commonality – great athletes in both
arenas,” Johnson said. ”This is a really cool sport.”
Johnson got a ride on the track a few months ago, ”and I will
tell you, my food did come up. I wasn’t prepared for those turns.
The upper loop was tough on a former basketball player.”
Johnson can’t appear anywhere in public without hearing
questions about the Sacramento Kings’ future, and he didn’t blink
at a report the Kings are now thinking about moving to Virginia
Beach after their prolonged flirtation with Anaheim.
”We’re not giving up,” Johnson said. ”I don’t think Virginia
Beach would be a better place. I don’t think the grass is greener
in Virginia Beach than in Sacramento.”
NINER PRIDE: From his firesuit to his paint job, J.R.
Hildebrand’s afternoon in Sonoma was all about his devotion to the
San Francisco 49ers and their coach.
Hildebrand’s car was painted in the Niners’ garnet and gold, and
his firesuit was an interesting interpretation of their uniform:
tan pants, a red jersey with a No. 4 on the back below his name in
the Niners’ traditional font – and even the jersey stripes on the
Hildebrand is from nearby Sausalito, just across the Golden Gate
Bridge from the City, but his Panther Racing team also is
part-owned by Jim Harbaugh. The team gear certainly didn’t hurt
Hildebrand: He finished eighth.
Harbaugh couldn’t attend the race, however. The Niners were busy
beating the Broncos in a preseason game in Denver.
PIT STOPS: Helio Castroneves attended a pre-race Q-and-A session
carrying a sign reading: ”Vote for Me.” Castroneves will start a
run on ”Dancing With the Stars: All-Stars” after the IndyCar
season ends next month. He first appeared on the show in 2007. …
Will Power’s second-place finish was his seventh top-five finish of
the season. … Dario Franchitti has finished in the top four in
his last six starts in Sonoma. … Ryan Briscoe is the seventh
different winner in the eight editions of the Sonoma race since the
series first visited wine country in 2005. Power is the only repeat