Pagenaud labels title prospects 'very high'
9 September 2017 – Reigning IndyCar Champion Simon Pagenaud believes his chances of retaining his title are "very high" as he bids to overhaul Penske team-mate Josef Newgarden at Sonoma next weekend.
Pagenaud, who clinched last year's crown with victory in the finale, has triumphed only once this season, but has taken 12 top-five finishes from 16 starts to remain in contention.
The Frenchman heads to the double-points title showdown fourth in the standings, 34 adrift of Newgarden, but expressed confidence over at his prospects.
"Quite frankly, it's going to be who makes the best decisions and – that's personally without being pretentious – that's something that I think I do well," Pagenaud said.
"So that's why I think my chances to win this championship are very high.
"Again, I have to go into Sonoma with a lot of confidence, and that's exactly what I'm going to do, just like I did last year, and may the best win."
Pagenaud took seven poles and five wins en route to last year's championship but has topped qualifying just once this year, at Toronto, along with his sole victory at Phoenix.
He confirmed that his title defence has been "even harder" than winning the championship, but has "no real explanation" for the drop-off in results.
"It's very hard," he said of winning a title.
"I think it's even harder to repeat, quite frankly.
"I found myself in a great situation last year with a dominant performance.
"Repeating is even harder just because you have a baseline of things that worked the year before, and you're hoping it will do the same.
"But the reality is you have to adapt to situations, and this year has been a very different year for me, which is no real explanation for it, it's just the way it is."
Pagenaud is striving to become the first driver to retain the title since Dario Franchitti in 2011.