RACER.com continues its breakdown of each team's season in the IZOD IndyCar Series. Fourth up is Schmidt/Hamilton Motorsports, with each driver, points total and finish, wins/poles or best start/finish, average start, points per race and laps led, if applicable.
SCHMIDT/HAMILTON MOTORSPORTS (Honda)
Simon Pagenaud / (387, 5th)
Townsend Bell / (26, 30th)
Best start: 3rd (Mid-Ohio) / Best finish: 2nd (Long Beach)
Avg. Start: 11.3
Points Per Race: 25.8
Laps Led: 63
Two things became apparent very quickly on Simon Pagenaud's first drive back in a full-season ride at St. Pete to open the 2012 season. A – he'd lost none of his speed in an open-wheel car after his four-year sports car sojourn and B – he'd become the ultimate “little guy” thorn in the big team's sides along with reuniting with engineer Ben Bretzman (from sports cars) and team manager Rob Edwards (Champ Cars).
Pagenaud was the guinea pig for IndyCar's 10-spot grid penalty rule, thus dropping him from a Firestone Fast Six appearance there to 16th, but no matter. He improved to sixth by the flag. It was the first of several standout performances that brought Sam Schmidt's team, now with Davey Hamilton as a partner and co-owner, into the discussion among the leading teams. Still, it was no surprise to anyone who's followed his sports car career so intently over the past few years.
With one more lap, he would have won at Long Beach. He added podiums at the two other tracks where he had prior ALMS experience – Detroit and Mid-Ohio. He came from a lap down to finish sixth at Texas, only his second oval race, and drove from 25th to fifth at Iowa. A fourth podium in Baltimore confirmed his place in the top-five in points – and there was that restart from sixth to first mid-race.
If you were looking for any demerits, and you'd have to look hard to find them, his 500-mile performances paled in comparison to the rest of his season – 23rd to 16th at Indy and 20th to 15th at Fontana – but no one was expecting miracles from him on those anyway given they were only his first and fifth oval races. That's what Townsend Bell was brought in for, and a ho-hum one-off ninth place for him at Indy this year confirmed that. His block at Toronto on fellow rookie Josef Newgarden was rather egregious, and he didn't score a front row starting spot. Still, his only retirement came when Charlie Kimball speared him at the last corner at Edmonton, and overall, there was little more Pagenaud or team could have done better in 2012.
For 2013, Pagenaud may have the benefit of a full-season teammate, and given his renowned skills in car development and great chemistry within the team, further heights are possible. It's early days yet for too much prognosticating, but at a minimum, you'd think he'll win his first race and maybe threaten the top three in the championship.