Pikes Peak Hill Climb nets this week's IndyCar winner, Simon Pagenaud

By: BROOKE PRYOR brooke.pryor@gazette.com
June 5, 2013 Updated: June 5, 2013 at 7:15 pm
photo - 11 March, 2013, Birmingham, Alabama, USA
Subject: Simon Pagenaud Portrait
? 2013, Michael L. Levitt
11 March, 2013, Birmingham, Alabama, USA Subject: Simon Pagenaud Portrait ? 2013, Michael L. Levitt LAT Photo USA  

The Pikes Peak International Hill Climb announced the debut of IndyCar driver Simon Pagenaud at the event's 91st running June 30.

The French-born Pagenaud is coming off an eighth-place finish at the Indianapolis 500 and a first-place finish at the Detroit Grand Prix.

"This is something I'm really looking forward to," Pagenaud said in a release Tuesday. "I've done a little bit of rallying in France, and I used to watch highlights of the Pikes Peak race on television as a kid."

The release describes the Honda-powered racer as a "dead ringer for the 'Jean Gerrard' character portrayed by comedian Sacha Baron Cohen in the movie 'Talladega Nights,'" but with more natural and genuine talent.

Pagenaud finished on the podium four times in 2012 and ended the year fifth in the final IndyCar championship standings that year.

His impressive performance garnered him Rookie of the Year honors in 2012.

"It's just really exciting to have such a big name out here at the Hill Climb," said Megan Leatham, executive director of operations of the Hill Climb. "We are excited to see what he can do with his skills on the hill."

Pagenaud and his team have been in contact with the organizers of the event since November, Leatham said, but waited to release the news of his entry until Wednesday.

Pagenaud will be competing in the Exhibition Automobile division with a turbocharged, 500-plus horsepower Honda Odyssey.

"Our entry will be unique to say the least," Pagenaud said. "A Honda Odyssey with power similar to an IndyCar will raise some eyebrows for sure."

Pagenaud joins a collection of other high-profile racers entering various categories, including fellow Frenchmen Romain Dumas, who holds the title of second-fastest auto driver in the history of the race and nine-time World Rally champion Sebastien Loeb.

"We're really excited about everyone in the field this year," Leatham said. "It seems that there's a hot rider or driver in almost every division."

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