Can Pagenaud become just the 3rd back-to-back Indy 500 champion in the last 66 years?

INDIANAPOLIS — Alexander Rossi won the 2016 Indianapolis 500 and he’s been hungry to win another one. He’s 0-for-3 since. Same for Takuma Sato and Will Power. Once they’ve got the Indy 500 win, they’ve wanted it actually more than ever since. They’re 0-for-2 and 0-for-1 after.

Same can be said for Simon Pagenaud. The jealousy bug has bit him too. I mean, to win the Indy 500 is a huge accomplishment. It’s a lifetime achievement accomplished in a span of three hours. But, it’s what follows those three hours of racing to what these guys don’t want to give up.

From the parades, the media tours, the ceremonies, etc, they don’t want anyone else to bask in that glory. They’ve tasted it and now want it more than ever after.

“My eyes have always been on Indy and it always will be on Indy,” Pagenaud said ahead of Sunday’s race. “This place provides you the most reward when you win it, in terms of personal satisfaction.

“I don’t want anyone to take it from me.”

That’s why it’s astonishing that as we head into the 104th Running of the Indianapolis 500 (1 p.m. ET, NBC, INDYCAR Radio Network), that we’ve had a different winner every year for this race since 2010. The last six winners to kiss the bricks, well they’ve all won their first Indy 500’s.

If you go back to 2003, only Dario Franchitti and Dan Wheldon are the only drivers to have won this race more than once in that time period.

Now, Pagenaud is hoping to add his name to that list. He knows though, that the odds are stacked against him this weekend. The last repeat winner was his teammate Helio Castroneves in 2001 and 2002. Helio, is the last repeat winner since Al Unser Sr. in 1970 and 1971. That’s two times this has happened in 65 years. Do you think it happens for the third time in 66 years?

If it is, Pagenaud would be a good place for it to start.

The Frenchman won on an oval at Iowa last month. He did so from last. In a 218 mile race, he came from 23rd to first. This race is 500 miles. That’s why despite being in 25th at the start, he says that while they have to use a new strategy, it’s entirely possible still.

“It can be done,” Pagenaud continued. “It’s all possible. We might have to use some strategies. The air is so disturbed back there. It’s a lot easier to pass when you’re sitting third or second. We’re going to have to use a lot different strategy than last year and we’re going to have to be smart like we did in Iowa.

“My race car setup feels good.”

He was third on the only other superspeedway ran this year in Texas. Plus, he drives for Team Penske, an organization that has won in each of the last two years here and combine them with Andretti Autosport, the two have won each of the last six years too.”

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