In June, Simon Pagenaud, the 2016 IndyCar champion, was nominated for the Best Driver ESPY. As is common when facing the prospect of attending a high-profile award ceremony, any nominees worth his (or her) style salt must immediately start pondering how to look their best on the red carpet. We asked Pagenaud to keep a style diary during the run up to the sporting world’s best known award events.
Wednesday, June 21: Today I found out about my ESPY nomination in the Best Driver category. We’re in the middle of a grueling stretch of races on the Verizon IndyCar Series schedule, and it was a really nice surprise to hear about the nomination. And of course one of my first thoughts after the initial excitement was wondering what I’d wear. We go to really nice events as drivers pretty regularly, but the ESPY awards are the pinnacle for all sports!
Wednesday, July 5: We’re lucky to be home for a few days this week in Charlotte, NC, so this is my only time to be fitted for my ESPYs tuxedo. I recently signed on with Samuelsohn to be an ambassador for their luxury clothing, and the timing couldn’t have been better! They had me go to the store Taylor Richards & Conger in Charlotte where I tried on several different options. The people at the store were super kind and helpful, and we spent a lot of time combing through different color combinations. We decided on a Samuelsohn Ice Wool Navy Tuxedo with navy shoes to match. I find that I wear blue a lot for red carpet events, and this is no exception! I think it looks great when photographed on the red carpet and just think it looks super slick. Thinking about Bond, James Bond.
These parties were definitely more relaxed in dress than the red carpet would be the next night, and most of the men attending weren’t wearing ties. The Players’ Tribune party was at the Beverly Hills Hotel, around a swanky pool, with people rolling handmade cigars and celebrity photographers shooting the various athletes. From there we went to the ESPN Body Issue party that was set up in a really cool night club. We had a blast hanging out with Julian Edelman, the New England Patriots’ wide receiver who made that incredible Super Bowl catch. He attended our Long Beach race earlier this year. By the end of the evening we were exhausted and knew we had a big day ahead tomorrow. Luckily, my cork shoes are broken in and I was comfortable the whole evening!
Tuesday, July 11: It’s ESPY eve (new holiday, just made that up)! Flights were delayed home from our race in Iowa on Sunday, so I didn’t make it home until yesterday evening. Then I had a few hours to pack for Los Angeles and had to hit the race simulator with my engineer until noon. Factor in a flight delay to LAX and it wasn’t dull! After finally arriving we rushed to the hotel and I changed as quickly as I could into my suit for the evening. We had the Players’ Tribune and ESPN Body Issue parties on tap for the night. I wasn’t exactly sure what to expect as far as what other people would wear, so I went with a Sand suit and Donald Pliner cork shoes. This outfit has been a staple in my wardrobe, and I’ve gotten a ton of use out of it. The cork shoes are also really special because my fiancé Hailey bought them for me as a surprise several years ago. Obviously being French I have a (very) healthy obsession with wine, and when I saw these shoes made entirely out of cork I fell in love. They didn’t have my size in the store at the time, but Hailey secretly worked with the store manager to get them ordered and surprised me with them later! It’s even more fun to wear items like that with emotional significance.
Wednesday, July 12: I woke up this morning with a little bit of spare time before interviews and ESPY madness began, so I had a massage at the hotel which was amazing. Massage therapy is a big aspect of my preparation for the race car, so fitting this in was helpful for me since I have to leave straight from the ESPYs for our next race in Toronto. Unfortunately the massage made me about 15 minutes late for my first interview of the day with Young Hollywood. They were understanding, though, because we showed up to the interview with longboards and French champagne! Our plan was to give Lesley Robins a lesson on longboarding, which is one of my favorite things to do with my dog Norman and also perfect for California!
Considering we were going outside to get on longboards in 90-degree heat, I went with a casual all-American look. I wore my 4th of July American flag board shorts (muted colors though, not too crazy) and a simple T-shirt. When we sat down for the first part of the interview I even took my shoes off to complete the California surfer look. Luckily Lesley was a natural on the longboard, and it was really fun to do such a laidback interview before getting ready for the red carpet.
And then to keep with the theme of having almost no time at all to get ready, I ran back to my hotel room to get dressed in my Samuelsohn tuxedo before my live SportsCenter interview. I had all of 15 minutes to get in the tux. But I knew the fit was perfect so I didn’t worry about it. After sprinting down to the lobby for the interview, I got to take a look through a really awesome display of Maui Jim sunglasses. It’s not too bad to be nominated for an ESPY…we got to pick out whichever pair we liked to keep! I had a really hard time picking between the Kawika and Kahi frames. I spent enough time debating that they eventually just had me take both. I’ll remember that tactic for the future!
Next it was time to board the buses to the ESPYs, and we were dropped off right at the red carpet. It was definitely the largest red carpet I’ve ever participated in, and we met a ton of interesting people there including one of my favorite athletes, the Olympic snowboarder Shaun White. Everyone looked incredible, and I found myself starting conversations with the people wearing outfits I liked the most. The one drawback of the red carpet is that it occurs around 3 pm, so the heat was super intense! We were all melting, so it was great to go inside and sit down for the show in the air conditioning. I noticed lots of athletes wearing their sunglasses inside since there were bright lights from the stage, so I had a little fun with my new Maui Jim sunglasses at our seats.
I didn’t end up winning the Best Driver ESPY, but I’ve got to say this was absolutely a once in a lifetime experience. When I finally got back to the hotel it was a big relief to pull on pajamas and settle down with a big glass of red wine. I need to win the IndyCar Championship again this year just so I can go back to the ESPYs next year with a new Samuelsohn suit!