The Frenchman’s No. 22 Chevrolet is sponsored by DXC Technology, which happens to be the race’s title sponsor for the DXC Technology 600. And the DXC Technology employees from the nearby Plano office will be flooding the speedway this weekend.
"We were expecting 200, but then 3,000 signed in," said Pagenaud, who will start second after a strong qualifying run Friday. "So we will have a great showing and it’s great because that means the sport is relevant to people. For us drivers, having the support means everything. You feel special when people are behind you like that and it’s going to definitely be a special race for us."
DXC Technology, described as the “world’s leading independent, end-to-end IT services company, is doing its part to bring a little pizzazz to the pre-race ceremonies. They’ll have a drone, the Inspire 2, deliver the green flag to a company executive to start the race.
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It will mark the first time an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) will be legally approved by the FAA to fly at a sporting event.
Then the DXC Technology folks hope to witness history with Pagenaud winning for the first time in Texas and first time in 2018.
Pagenaud feels good about his chances going into it even though he hasn't had a great season to date. He has run well on ovals so far, though, and returns to Texas after posting his best finish (third) at the track a year ago.
He finished fourth in 2014 and 2016, and led 59 laps during an 11th place run in 2015.
"I love this place," said Pagenaud, the 2016 series champion who has 11 career wins. "It’s one of my favorites ovals. It’s the highest banking we have all year long. There’s a lot of opportunities for passing. You can run high, you can run low and I love that aspect of it that you can set your car up for different lines. It’s a very interesting track. The show is always great.
"I tell you what, Texas Motor Speedway is the best at putting a show together, so it’s always a pleasure to come here."
As stated, Pagenaud is looking for his first win of the season. This is a driver who has developed a knack for Victory Lane with two wins in 2017 and five in his championship year in 2016.
But the series is at a competitive peak. There’s been six different drivers to win the first eight races.
"That’s good to see, right?" said Scott Dixon, IndyCar’s active wins leader with 41. “I think a lot of us take it for granted, to be honest, just because it seems like it’s been like that for quite a period of time.
"Gone are the days of the small teams. There are some teams that claim to want to be small teams, but they’re far from it."
Nobody will question whether Team Penske falls under that category. After all, its drivers are starting 1-2-3 going into Saturday's race. Josef Newgarden is the pole-sitter, winning his first pole at Texas on Friday, followed by Pagenaud and then reigning Indianapolis 500 champion Will Power.
And Penske drivers have had more success at Texas than any other team with a track-record nine victories. That includes Power winning last June’s event.
Pagenaud hopes to accomplish the feat this year, particularly in front of thousands of DXC Technology employees in a DXC Technology-sponsored car at a DXC Technology-sponsored race.
"It's a position I’ve never been in,” said Pagenaud, who grew up more than 5,000 miles away in France. "It's the first time that my partner and sponsor is the title sponsor of the race too. Hopefully we do well."