IndyCar could tie record number of season winners in Baltimore

Leave a comment

The IZOD IndyCar Series has the opportunity this weekend in Baltimore to have its 11th different winner in 16 races this season, which would tie a mark set in 2000 and 2001, in the old CART days.

Here’s who has won thus far in the exciting and often unpredictable 2013 season:

  • James Hinchcliffe, Andretti Autosport, St. Petersburg (first career win), Brazil, Iowa
  • Ryan Hunter-Reay, Andretti Autosport, Barber, Milwaukee
  • Takuma Sato, A.J. Foyt Enterprises, Long Beach (first career win)
  • Tony Kanaan, KV Racing Technology – SH, Indianapolis 500 (first Indianapolis 500 win)
  • Mike Conway, Dale Coyne Racing, Detroit 1
  • Simon Pagenaud, Schmidt Hamilton Motorsports, Detroit 2 (first career win)
  • Helio Castroneves, Team Penske, Texas
  • Scott Dixon, Target Chip Ganassi Racing, Pocono, Toronto 1 & 2
  • Charlie Kimball, Novo Nordisk Chip Ganassi Racing, Mid-Ohio (first career win)
  • Will Power, Team Penske, Sonoma

So, who are the likely candidates to be lucky number 11 and tie that mark this weekend? Here’s some gentlemen (and women) to watch:

  • Dario Franchitti, Target Chip Ganassi Racing. He’s driving too well to have not yet broke his winless drought of late, which dates to Indianapolis 2012 overall and on a road or street course since Toronto of 2011. He’s as fast as ever with four pole positions and has finished third four times this year. He just feels due.
  • Justin Wilson, Dale Coyne Racing. He missed Baltimore in 2011 due to injury and started seventh and finished 17th a year ago. But he has two street course podiums this year (Long Beach and Detroit 1) and has been particularly on form of late.
  • Sebastien Bourdais, Dragon Racing. A double podium in Toronto was needed for both driver and team and he’s been better since the engineering change to Tom Brown. A Firestone Fast Six qualifier at Baltimore a year ago, knows his way around the circuit and a solid upset pick.
  • Simona de Silvestro, KV Racing Technology. You might not think of her off the top but she starred at Baltimore two years ago and wasn’t able to show herself last year with the woefully underpowered Lotus engine. In need of a big weekend beyond the midpack, and with St. Petersburg as her best race this year, she could surprise this weekend.
  • Graham Rahal, Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing. He and teammate James Jakes have each had a second-place on a street course this year but I’d peg Rahal a bit higher this weekend as he was woefully unlucky not to win, or podium, after a sensational qualifying performance at Baltimore in 2011. The key as ever for him and the RLL team is nailing the setup off the truck, because far too often in 2013 they’ve been playing catch-up. A few races into working with new engineer Neil Fife, formerly of Dragon, things might be turning around for young Rahal as he has one of his better weekends of the year last weekend in Sonoma.
  • E.J. Viso, Venezuela-Andretti Autosport-HVM. A fringe entry here but Viso’s qualifying efforts earlier this year were very stout. Any chance of a win this weekend would come with a solid run on Saturday.  After a lackluster stretch of races, this sort of feels like a weekend where Viso could pull a proverbial rabbit out of his hat.

Spencer Pigot ready for full-season IndyCar effort with ECR

Photo: IndyCar
Leave a comment

After spending the last two years in a part-time role with Ed Carpenter Racing, contesting the road and street course races in the No. 20 Fuzzy’s Vodka Chevrolet, Spencer Pigot now gets a long-awaited chance at a full-season effort in 2018.

Moving over to the No. 21 entry, which has featured ECR’s full-season driver since 2016, Pigot has seen slight differences in his off-season prep ahead of the 2018 Verizon IndyCar Series season.

“We were one of the teams that got to a handful of days testing the aero kit, so I obviously did all the running on the road courses, but I was able to do a few laps on the ovals when Ed was testing. So, that wouldn’t have happened (if I was part-time still),” he told NBC Sports.

However, outside of that increase in testing and a little learning some new tracks – he has not raced at ISM Raceway, Gateway Motorsports Park, Pocono Raceway, or Iowa Speedway in an IndyCar – the changes to Pigot’s off-season program have not been dramatic.

“There’s definitely some things I’ll need to learn, but as far as off-season prep: nothing too dramatic, nothing too different.”

Pigot’s first full-season campaign saw its first official outing of the 2018 season last weekend during the open test at ISM Raceway. While he and the ECR team struggled to find speed much of the weekend – they languished outside of the top ten in the results of the first three sessions – things took a turn for the better during the final session of the weekend on Saturday night, when Pigot ended up ninth on the speed charts.

He ended up 14th in the combined results for the weekend, noting that he and the team still want to find more outright speed.

“I thought throughout the test that our average long run pace was okay, but we were still missing the outright pace to be where we need to be come qualifying time,” he revealed. “I think that we definitely made a step forward Saturday night and definitely have a much better idea of a direction we can head and go with when we go back.”

In terms of long-run practice, Pigot noted that tire degradation became much more prevalent, which made running with others cars around you somewhat of a challenge. Though, he emphasized that tire degradation could be beneficial for racing.

“Talking to some of the other guys, it seems a little bit harder to run behind people as the tires go off because the tires are degrading pretty quick with the lack of downforce as well,” he explained. “So, it’s going to be tricky, it’s going to be sliding around a little bit more than what guys have experienced in the past. But, I think everyone’s under the same kind of idea that it’s going to be better racing, and especially at (ISM Raceway) it should be exciting.”

Pigot did get some practice at overtaking at ISM and got a feel for what he may be able to expect when IndyCar returns in April for the Phoenix Grand Prix, and while he acknowledged it was difficult to judge during testing, he did feel like he could run around other cars without much of an issue.

“It’s not like a race when everyone comes in the pits at the same time and you’re all on similar tires, so it’s kind of hard to know exactly. But, I thought we were pretty good,” he detailed. “I thought I was able to run pretty close to guys in front of me and was able to make a few passes when other guys made mistakes or might have gone a little high.”

The test also served as Pigot’s first IndyCar venture on a short oval – he last ran on a short oval in 2015 during his Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires championship season.

“The corners definitely come up quick. There’s not much time to really relax or think about too much,” Pigot quipped when describing his first time on a short oval.

He continued, “You’ve got to concentrate pretty hard on being precise because the line there is very narrow so you have to make sure that you’re where the grip is at all points throughout the corner. And then, when everyone’s out there and you run in traffic, it’s just like you’re constantly in a corner, so it’s a little more difficult to get big runs and drafts off people. But I think it’ll definitely play into the hands of guys that have their cars set up well and can be easier on the tires.”

And in becoming the team’s full-time driver, Pigot is seeing a slight increase in his leadership role within the team, especially as it relates to testing and development, with Pigot doing the lion’s share of testing during the winter on road courses.

But, he also emphasized the oval prowess of teammate, and team owner, Ed Carpenter as something he will lean on when he ventures out on other ovals for the first time this year.

“Especially as we’re trying to learn this new aero kit, I was the one that pretty much did all the testing on the road and street courses. It was kind of me and the engineers trying to develop the car and work towards the setup that’s going to work for us. So, there’s definitely a little more responsibility in that. But, then on the ovals, obviously Ed’s there and he’s a great teammate to have and to learn from and bounce ideas off of. But, yeah, it’s definitely a more involved role within the team,” Pigot explained.

Pigot and ECR will test two more times, at Barber Motorsports Park and Sebring International Raceway, in the month of February prior to the season-opening Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg on March 11.

Follow@KyleMLavigne