Thursday, March 23, 2017

Simon Pagenaud: Drawing fans far and wide

By Chanda Healton 

Though IndyCar is thought of as an American form of racing with the only race falling outside the USA being the Honda Indy Toronto in Toronto, Ontario, IndyCar has drawn a world wide base of it's drivers. With those drivers have followed an international base of fans. I am searching the world to find each driver's self proclaimed number one fan! If I have more than one fan, there will be a trivia quiz to select our number one fan. Join me on this exciting journey!

We start with the Champion! A man, who you can't help but love to see succeed! Fan Jeff Munden says,"What makes me cheer for Simon Pagenausd is, he really appreciates his fans. He always takes time for us. Plus, he is fast!!!"

 Pagenaud has many fans around the world because of his infectious smile and charming laughter, but it's not just these reasons, he is also very fan friendly and loves to communicate with fans both big and small!

Rick Andrews said,"Through twitter I asked if he could send a quick happy b-day video for my lil boy... and he did!

Fan Kristin Davis said, "My husband and I have grown up watching and loving motor sports, Indy in particular. 3-4 years ago, we took our son Parker, who was 3 years old at the time, to his first IndyCar race at the Milwaukee Mile. He spotted Simon's orange and black Oculus car and followed him the whole race. He kept telling us, "He's my favorite!"

We went back the next year to the last and final Indy race at The Mile and had the opportunity to meet Simon the Saturday prior to race day while the drivers were playing a "Cornhole competition." Saturday was our adult day, so unfortunately we did not have Parker with us, but we had purchased a Simon souvenir car for him. When we met Simon, we told him he was our son's favorite driver, and he signed the car more than willingly, asking where "the little guy" was.

His personality and friendliness quickly hooked us too, and quickly became our family favorite.
Last year (2016) Parker finally got to meet Simon at Road America and then again at Iowa.
We are proud to crown Parker, Simon Pagenaud's littlest big fan!
He says he "really likes your (Simon;s) driving skills,
and want to be like you when I grow up!"

At Road America, Parker told him how he liked him ever since he was 3 years old and wished him luck at the race. Simon was so good with him and at Iowa, we were luck enough to meet him again during the Fan Autograph session. We had a hand-painted drawing done of Simon's Menard's car done to hang in Parker's room. We brought it with in hopes of him signing it. When we showed it to him, he was so excited, and so appreciative of us being his fans. He kept showing the drivers around him (Bourdais in particular) the painting so awestruck.

Every time we have gotten to interact with him, he has been so humble, gracious, and just a fun guy. He has been so good with Parker, who we know is a fan for life"

Today I will introduce you to 2 of Simon Pagenaud's fans as well as share the story of a fan who cheers for Pagenaud from West Africa!

Our first fan is Francois Moïse Bamba,49, lives in Burkina Faso in West Africa. I had to translate his responses into English for this story, so all comments will be paraphrased due to the language barrier with his quotes in French.

"Je suis comédien et conteur j'ai 49 ans et je vis au Burkina Faso en Afrique de l'ouest... Depuis que Simon est partit au Etats Unis... Je l'ai connu par sa mère avec qui j'ai eu la chance de travailler..."

I'm a comedian and storyteller I'M 49 years old and I live in Burkina Faso in West Africa... since Simon is left in the United States... I knew him by his mother with whom I had the chance To work.

Being so far from the USA, Bamba has not had a chance to actually meet Pagenaud.

"Non je n'ai pas encore eu la chance de le rencontrer​."

No I haven't yet had the chance to meet him.

However he says he has been a fan from the very beginning and has followed Pagenaud's career though his mother. 

"Depuis ces tout début, je le suivait de part sa mère."

Since these very beginning, I followed him from his mother.

However being an Indycar fan in a place where racing is so new has it's challenges. Bamba had to subscribe to a sports channel to be able to watch his racing and cheer for Pagenaud.

"Dans mon pays nous commençons juste á découvrir les courses automobiles et oui je me suis abonné exprès pour pouvoir voir les courses."

In my country we're just beginning to discover the motor racing and yes I subscribed on purpose in order to be able to see the races.

Bamba also has a message for Pagenaud:

Courage, qu'il continue comme ça, qu'il sache que y a des gens qui le suivent depuis le Burkina et qu'il les rend si heureux á chaque Victoire.

Courage, he continues like this, he knows that there are people who follow him since Burkina and he makes them so happy in every victory.

Our second fan is Cale Putnam who is 31 years old and from the Worcester, Massachusetts area, Putnam had a very unique story on how he met Pagenaud.

"I grew up a racing fan but got into IndyCar full time after the reunification. I started pulling for Simon in 2012.

In 2013 I got to see Simon win at Baltimore, the photo of me laughing like an idiot was from the day before. He saw me in the line with that shirt and gave me the thumbs up, then took that picture. I had not had too many interactions with IndyCar drivers at that point and I was floored by how nice he was. I ended up wearing that shirt to every race weekend since, it always gets a laugh from the other drivers, and it's gotten me on IndyCar's website a couple of times!

I've been lucky enough to meet Simon at every race I've been to since 2013, and at the Boston Auto Show last year! I always wear the "He Loves Crepes" shirt at races and that broke the ice. My first encounter was Baltimore in 2013, he came out from behind the table to take a photo, and was so happy to do it! He's always so gracious whenever I see him, he asks how things are and what races I'm going to. And, of course, at Watkins Glen he asked if I had seen the video of his crêpe flipping skills."

Putnum even has a room dedicated to Pagenaud with a second "He loves crêpes" shirt framed and autographed.

"My piece of memorabilia is a second one of the crêpe shirts I got autographed at Pocono.
When my wife and I were buying our home, I demanded a fan cave, and got the shirt framed with some photos as a centerpiece."

Why Pagenaud? Well that's simple. Sometimes it it the little stuff that draws us to a driver and then we notice the bigger things about them.

"What originally made me a fan was just how cool the HP car looked! But after meeting Simon I was all in - I couldn't believe a racing driver could be so down to earth. He can also be funny as all get out. Last year was a bit stressful but awesome. Simon is always fantastic and it was amazing seeing him reach the top. He is just such a good human being, and that's a big reason why I am a fan"

He also argues that everyone should love Pagenaud:

"Everyone should be a Simon Pagenaud fan. If you've seen the funny videos and the interviews and thought, "He seems like a cool guy," I can guarantee you that he's even cooler than that. IndyCar has a ton of great guys on the roster right now, but Simon really stands out as a driver who is wicked fast but also totally approachable and so incredibly gracious. Oh, and he's the Champ. And he quotes Days Of Thunder!"

If Putnam could pass one message on to Pagenaud, what would he want his favorite driver to know?

"What I would say to Simon is, "Congratulations! You completely deserve the Championship. 2016 was an awesome year to be a fan of yours. Thank you for always being cool and for all of the amazing moments, both off the track and on. You are exactly what makes IndyCar so great. I owe you a crêpe at some point!"

There is only one question left to be answered before we can consider crowning Cale Putnam Simon Pagenaud's number one fan. It's a very important question. 

Do you actually like eating crêpes?
"I do! I actually need to find a gluten free crêpe recipe since I got put on that diet by my doctor last year."

Lori Bryant, from also claims she is Pagenaud's biggest fan!  So let's learn about Bryant.

"A little about me, mom to two college aged sons that I'm very proud of and living in Chagrin Falls, OH. My husband and I are high performance driving instructors and teach at racetracks around the country many weekends a year as well as organizing driving events My family and I are huge IndyCar fans and we attend Detroit/Belle Isle and Mid-Ohio races every year since Simon joined IndyCar. We've been to about 2 dozen races overall. We went to the 12 Hours of Sebring in 2010 to see Simon when he was in sports car racing.
I've been Simon's fan since 2008 and see him a few times a year at races and tests. We chat about all kinds of things.
I email him a good luck message before every race.
My husband can send pictures tonight or tomorrow.
I have a shirt and/or hat from every team he's been with since 2008.
Lori Bryant with Simon Pagenaud
As an added bonus he even liked this tweet!
Most are autographed. I send him a birthday card every year. I have baked him and his team cookies as a thank you.
Simon and I met at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course on Mother's Day 2008. He had just won the Atlantic Series Championship (2007) and earned a seat with Team Australia and Derrick Walker. (His teammate was Will Power).
He had a two day test on that Monday and Tuesday and had used a simulator for the circuit but had never driven it and wanted a ride. He asked me for a ride around the track so I showed him how to drive it. We exchanged contact information after the driving and we've been friends ever since :)
I have attended at least two races per year to see Simon race, including Laguna Seca, Detroit/Belle Isle and Mid-Ohio. I have followed him through one year of Champ Car, three years of ALMS with first Gil de Ferran and then Highcroft Racing where they won the championship.
We were thrilled to see him go to the Indy Car Series and Simon has been amazing in this series, Rookie of the Year and finishing third overall his first year.
Now with Team Penske he has no limits!
Simon has invited me to test days in sports car racing and Indy Car. I wear his autograph on my helmet in my role as high performance driving instructor at racetracks all around the country. He wrote 'to my fan #1' on my #22 Simon Pagenaud shirt when he drove that car for Sam Schmidt Racing.
Heck, I drove him to the Cleveland Hopkins airport from a Mid-O test so he could fly to France to drive the 24 Hours of LeMans in 2009!
I just saw him at the North American International Automobile Show in Detroit in January and have photos.
We'll be traveling to Detroit the first weekend in June to see him race the double header race on Belle Isle.
He has already invited me to the July test date."

What can she offer up to new fans when choosing a driver? Well for starters,

"Simon is special because he is humble and very appreciative of his opportunity to live in the United States and do what he loves and excels at.Everyone should be a fan of this incredibly talented and kind young man because he shares the credit of his success with his teammates."

She also sends this message to Pagenaud:

"My message to Simon--we want to see you on top of the podium at Indy 500 with the Borg Warner trophy and repeat your championship in 2017! Good luck and be safe Simon!"

This is the trivia challenge to crown the winner
Correct answers are in green!

What City and country was Simon Pagenaud born in?

C Montmorillon, France
L.  Simon was born in Poitiers, France May 18, 1984. I mail him a birthday card every year.

How old was Simon Pagenaud when he started racing Go Carts?

C 6 years old
L  I believe he started karting at age 14

What year did Simon Pagenaud start his professional racing career in French Formula Renault?

C 1999
L He first drove in French Formula Renault in 2002

What breed of dog does Simon Pagenaud have and what is his name?

C Jack Russel terrier named Norman Pagenaud
L His dog Norman is a male Jack Russell Terrier and he is one year old.

Is Simon Pagenaud from a racing oriented family?
C His father runs a supermarket, so based on that I'll say No.
L Simon is not from a racing family. His dad Christian owns a grocery store and his mom Sylvie is a dancer and choreographer.

What year did Simon Pagenaud first move to Indianapolis to race?
C 2005
L Simon moved to Indianapolis in 2006.

How many wins does Simon Pagenaud have in the Grand Prix of Indy? What years?

C 2 - 2014 and 2016
L Simon has two wins in the Indianapolis Grand Prix, the 2014 Inaugural event and again in 2016.

What other Indycar driver did Simon Pagenaud race with in the 2006 Champ Car Atlantic series?

C Graham Rahal
L ) Simon drove with Graham Rahal in the 2006 Atlantic Series. Simon won the championship and Graham finished second overall. The championship was decided at the last race at Road America.

When Simon Pagenaud participated in the Pikes Peak International Hill Climb what vehicle did he use?
C 2013, Honda Odyssey
L  Simon drove a Honda minivan in the Pike's Peak Hill Climb.

How many IndyCar races has Simon Pagenaud won?

C 9 - Detroit 2013, Baltimore 2013, Indy GP 2014, Houston 2014, Long Beach 2016, Barber 2016, Indy GP 2016, Mid Ohio 2016, Sonoma 2016
L Simon has nine IndyCar wins. He also has nine poles, 19 podiums and four fastest laps. He has 72 IndyCar starts.

Final score
Cale: 7
Lori: 8

And so now it's the moment you have all been looking for, the crowning of Simon Pagenaud's Number one fan! It was hard to choose but the quiz has decided that his number one fan is Lori Bryant! However, because of his dedication to Pagenaud, I hereby recognize Cale Putnum the King of the Crêpes. Pagenaud is lucky to have so many great fans, and in the hearts of his fans, he will always be number one! If you would like to share your fan story of Pagenaud, please do so in the comments!

Correct answers are at the bottom of the story!

Tune in next week as we search for Josef Newgarden's number 1 fan!

Don't forget to follow us on twitter at @FLRNews and Facebook, or to participate in the number one driver challenges email us at

here are the correct answers for those who wants to know

Poitiers, France.



Norman Jack Russell Terrier



2 2014, 2016

Graham Rahal



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