Spencer Pigot

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Pigot confirmed full-time with Carpenter

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Spencer Pigot has been close to a full-time seat in the Verizon IndyCar Series for at least a couple months now, and has been confirmed today by Ed Carpenter Racing for that to become a reality.

The team release with full information is below.

After two seasons as the road and street course driver of Ed Carpenter Racing’s No. 20, Spencer Pigot will move to the No. 21 in 2018 and race full-time in the Verizon IndyCar Series. The 23-year-old’s first full season of Indy car competition is the next step in a career which has seen him collect multiple championships along the Mazda Road to Indy prior to joinin­­­g ECR during the 2016 season. In 2017, Pigot became the first driver to retain the road and street course seat of the No. 20 for a second year and will continue with ECR as the driver of the No. 21 for the entirety of the 2018 season.

“To say I am excited about 2018 would be an understatement. I have really enjoyed my time so far with Ed Carpenter Racing and this is the next step in what I hope is a long, successful partnership with the team in the Verizon IndyCar Series,” said Pigot. “I am very thankful to Ed Carpenter, Tony George, Stuart Reed and everyone at ECR for their confidence in me to deliver the results the team deserves. It is a privilege to represent Fuzzy’s Vodka, Preferred Freezer Services, Direct Supply and all of the other partners of ECR in 2018.”

In his sophomore season, Pigot’s name has become synonymous with the ability to race his way through the field. He is credited with over 50 on-track passes for position this year, but unfortunate circumstances have limited him to three Top 10 finishes. He was running 5th in St. Petersburg when a brake rotor ignited; a misfire of the engine at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway dropped him from 6th; and he had climbed to 8th at Road America when he had to make two lengthy pit stops for repairs to the suspension. In Toronto, Pigot gained seven positions in the first 15 green flag laps but was relegated to the rear of the field after one of his tires was cut by another competitor. He has continually improved throughout the season, matching his best qualifying position to date just two weeks ago at Watkins Glen International and leading the first laps of his Indy car career.

“It is very exciting to be announcing that Spencer will be competing in a full-time role for ECR in 2018. Spencer made significant strides from his rookie season into his sophomore year and we see much more potential in his ability,” stated Ed Carpenter, the only owner/driver in the Verizon IndyCar Series. Carpenter continued, “Spencer has worked very hard to improve in all areas of his driving and we feel the time has come to give him a chance to compete for the championship. I look forward to his continued development and reaching the top step of the podium in 2018.”

All but four of Pigot’s 21 Indy car starts have been with Ed Carpenter Racing. The Orlando, Fla. native was awarded a three-race scholarship after winning the 2015 Indy Lights championship, which was carried out with Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing. After competing in the 100th Running of the Indianapolis 500 with RLLR, Pigot joined ECR as road and street course driver of the No. 20 for the remainder of the 2016 season. He retained that role for 2017, the first driver to do so since the ride became a shared seat with Carpenter in 2014. Since the No. 20 is piloted by Carpenter in the Indianapolis 500, Pigot reunited with Juncos Racing in May of 2017 for the opportunity to race in the legendary event for the second time. Pigot’s 2015 Indy Lights title and 2014 Pro Mazda championship came while competing for Juncos.

Though he has not been behind the wheel, Pigot has attended every oval event with ECR since joining the team in 2016. In an effort to learn as much as possible, Pigot has been on Carpenter’s timing stand during each practice and qualifying session and has observed the races from the spotter’s stand. Outside of Indy car, Pigot has continued to hone his skills by competing for Mazda Racing in the endurance races of the IMSA Weather Tech Sports Car Championship.

Pigot is looking forward to racing alongside Carpenter for the first time as both his team owner and teammate. “I will still have a lot to learn as 2018 will be my first full season in Indy car, but I know I have the team and teammate with Ed to help me as I get used to regularly racing on ovals again.” Carpenter will continue to drive the No. 20 Fuzzy’s Ultra Premium Vodka Chevrolet on ovals in 2018 for what will be his 16th year of Indy car competition. The road and street course program for the No. 20 is still under consideration.

At the most recent event at Watkins Glen International, Ed Carpenter Racing celebrated its 100th race. Formed in late 2011, ECR entered the Verizon IndyCar Series full-time in 2012. The team has proven its versatility by collecting seven wins on each type of track the series competes on – street and road courses, short ovals and speedways. ECR Chevrolets have started on the front row of the Indianapolis 500 four of the past five years, including Carpenter’s two pole positions in 2013 and 2014 and this year’s qualifying effort that landed him in the middle of the front row. The Speedway, Ind.-based team has 22 Top 5 finishes to date, 17 of which have been podiums.

The 2017 Verizon IndyCar Series season will conclude this weekend with 85 laps around the natural terrain road course of Sonoma Raceway. The GoPro Grand Prix will take place on Sunday, September 17, then Carpenter and Pigot will begin an extensive off-season testing program to prepare for 2018’s universal aero kit.

Pigot: ‘The important thing is people see the potential’

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WATKINS GLEN, N.Y. – Like many drivers in the Verizon IndyCar Series, Spencer Pigot doesn’t have his 2018 plans sorted, and probably won’t for at least several more weeks.

Pigot matched his car number, 20, in terms of career starts his most recent outing in the No. 20 Fuzzy’s Vodka Chevrolet for Ed Carpenter Racing at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course slightly more than a month ago.

Heading into this Sunday’s INDYCAR Grand Prix at The Glen (1 p.m. ET, NBCSN), the two-time Mazda Road to Indy presented by Cooper Tires champion has a point to prove results-wise as he looks to solidify his status in the series beyond being a perennial part-timer, sharing the car with his team boss.

“It’s not been the ideal situation, but the series schedule is somewhat compact that I’m racing fairly often,” Pigot told NBC Sports. “This has been biggest downtime, between Mid-Ohio and Watkins Glen. Doing the long distance races with Mazda has kept me fresh as well. You just try to take advantage of all the sessions to get back into the swing of things.”

The Rising Star Racing-supported driver would like to continue with Ed Carpenter Racing and is working towards that retention. Carpenter’s team had a significant change this year with both Josef Newgarden and engineer Jeremy Milless moving on; JR Hildebrand and Justin Taylor came in on the No. 21 side, respectively. Pigot was retained for 2017.

“The next year is always in back of my mind, to try to continue in IndyCar. Finding a full-time ride and being there every weekend is the goal,” he said.

“I’m very happy with where I am. I want to stay with Ed Carpenter Racing. After Sonoma will be the time for talks.”

Pigot’s second season has been more cohesive than his first (all with Carpenter with the exception of the Indianapolis 500 for Juncos Racing), and he’s one of a handful of drivers on the grid where results have not showcased his performance in race weekends.

Just this year alone, Pigot has executed more than 50 on-track passes for position, but has been caught out by a myriad of unfortunate circumstances throughout the year. While running fifth in St. Petersburg, a brake rotor ignited; a misfire of the engine following a pit stop in the INDYCAR Grand Prix at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway dropped him from sixth; and he had worked his way up to eighth at Road America when he had to make two lengthy pit stops for repairs to the front suspension. In Toronto, Pigot gained seven positions in the first 15 green flag laps but was relegated to the rear of the field following unscheduled pit stop after another competitor cut one of his tires.

“I think it’s a tough situation to be in. Our top-10s could have been top-fives. Or 11th or 12th places could have been top-10s,” said Pigot, who’s banked three top-10s this year but in those races at St. Pete, Indy, Road America and Toronto, he finished 20th, ninth, 12th and 18th.

“The important thing is people see the potential and some of the races that we’ve had have been pretty impressive. The amount of cars we passed or pace we ran was good. Even if the end result hasn’t shown it, we’ve shown we can be competitive. We’ve shown if we’re behind a car, we can get by.”

The Floridan is a bit perplexing in these two points: he’s shown that aforementioned excellent race craft and bravery on the PFC brakes, as witnessed by his overtaking numbers. But the fact he’s needed to do so has come from poor qualifying positions, still yet to make his first appearance out of Q1 in a road or street course qualifying session.

Pigot worked to explain this dichotomy when talking about his comfort level on the brakes, and how he feels he has improved in qualifying anyway (and the stats back that up – he has improved his qualifying position in all but one of his starts this year at tracks he raced at last year, although his best start is 13th) having had an extra session on Friday to run on Firestone’s red alternate tires, which was a new introduction this year.

“I would say they’re not quite as grabby, initially, as you don’t feel the braking power quite to the same extent as last year, but the consistency is there,” Pigot explained. “With the PFCs, through the second half of the braking zone, you can go in and trust the downforce. And you can go in quicker than you might want to.

“With the Friday red tire run, it’s a help. Qualifying will always be a bit different but now you know what to expect. The reds last year changed the balance of the car once you got to qualifying. With that kind of drastic difference now you can get some feeling with that, and get moving into qualifying.”

Pigot has worked decently well with Hildebrand this year although neither’s really had a genuine standout start-to-finish amazing weekend on a road or street course this year.

Either of the cool young Americans, who are facing uncertain futures in IndyCar, will look to pull a result out over these last two weekends. Pigot probably amplified his cool status when he sent out a tweet asking if he was the only person who hadn’t seen HBO’s “Game of Thrones,” and got a widespread response including more than 300 “likes.”

“Probably my most popular tweet ever,” Pigot deadpanned.

But in all seriousness…

“We’ve had a lot of weekends that could have been a lot better. The results don’t show how well we’ve worked together and developed the car,” Pigot said.

“It’s been nice to have the continuity throughout the whole season. Having the same group of guys, seeing how they operate, helps us develop our race car.

“Last year I did a few races with Rahal and a handful with Ed, and the times I was doing those races, Graham (Rahal) and Josef (Newgarden) had largely developed the car for themselves.

“Now it’s a bit different. We’ve had more time to test and zero in on what I like this year. That’s showing in the pace we’ve shown in specific events, and hopefully the results to come.”

Pigot crashes as Rahal leads Mid-Ohio warm-up

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Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing’s Graham Rahal topped the morning warm-up for this afternoon’s Honda Indy 200 at Mid-Ohio (3:00 p.m. ET, CNBC). His best lap of 1:05.0239 was nearly three tenths of a second up on Team Penske’s Helio Castroneves, who came in second with a best lap of 1:05.3007.

Rahal won this race in 2015 and is looking to get caught up in the championship. He sits 64 points back of points leader Scott Dixon heading into the race. On essentially a “win-or-bust” strategy, Rahal really has nothing to lose today.

Graham Rahal topped the morning warm-up at Mid-Ohio. Photo: IndyCar

Three Andretti Autosport cars completed the top five, with Marco Andretti third, Takuma Sato fourth, and Ryan Hunter-Reay fifth, making it four Hondas in the top five in the final session before the race begins.

The session saw one incident, but it was a big one as Ed Carpenter Racing’s Spencer Pigot crashed hard exiting the final corner. Pigot’s No. 20 Fuzzy’s Vodka Chevrolet quickly broke loose, but the front wheels gripped too much when he tried to correct it and the car shot straight off course and nosed into the concrete wall just after the tire barrier ended.

Pigot was able to exit the car and walk away under his own power, confirming afterward that he was okay, but the ECR team will have to prepare the backup car ahead of this afternoon’s race, as the tub of Pigot’s chassis was damaged in the impact.

Times are below. Note: the session was extended by five minutes to make up for time lost due to Pigot’s incident. Coverage of the Honda Indy 200 begins at 3:00 p.m. on CNBC.

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IndyCar Paddock Pass: Toronto (VIDEO)

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NBCSN’s coverage of the Verizon IndyCar Series continues this weekend with the series’ lone race trip outside the United States, to Exhibition Place for the Honda Indy Toronto (Sunday, 3 p.m. ET, CNBC).

The NBC Sports Group original digital series Paddock Pass also continues for another episode as the series makes its final street course visit, and first since Detroit’s doubleheader the start of June.

Anders Krohn checks in for the latest edition of the show, which you can see below.

On tap in this week’s episode are interviews with Iowa winner Helio Castroneves, Detroit double winner Graham Rahal and past Toronto Indy Lights winner Spencer Pigot.

You can see the episode above. Past IndyCar Paddock Pass episodes are below:


‘Inside the double’ How the field fared at Detroit’s twin-bill

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As the lone doubleheader event on the Verizon IndyCar Series calendar, the Chevrolet Detroit Grand Prix Presented by Lear presents one of the most unique challenges of any event on the calendar.

And with a full slate of points on the line in both races, finishing well in both is imperative in the overall championship picture.

With that in mind, some drivers enjoyed successful outings in Detroit, while others will need to rebound in the coming races.

The Good

Graham Rahal: Most obviously, Rahal had, by far, the best results of anyone. The 28-year-old won Race 1 from the pole, won Race 2 from third, and collected 107 of a possible 108 points. That performance vaulted Rahal from 15th in the championship to sixth.

What’s more, prior to this weekend, Rahal sat 101 points behind then championship leader Helio Castroneves. Leaving Detroit, Rahal now sits 52 points adrift of new championship leader Scott Dixon. Having cut his championship deficit nearly in half, Rahal is in prime position to make a championship push.

Josef Newgarden: Newgarden may not have been in victory lane in Detroit, but he did have one of the strongest weekends out of anyone on the grid. Newgarden’s finishes of fourth (Race 1) and second (Race 2) are his best since his victory at the Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama at Barber Motorsports Park, and were a welcome change after a tough 101st Indianapolis 500 presented by PennGrade Motor Oil, in which he qualified 22nd and finished 19th after a lap 183 crash.

Takuma Sato: Race 1 was solid, but unspectacular for Sato, who finished eighth. However, Race 2 was a little bit of a different story, as the Andretti Autosport driver started from the pole and drove a strong race to finish fourth.

Sitting in third position in the championship before the weekend started, Sato remains in third and trails leader Scott Dixon by 11 points (coincidentally, that’s the same gap he was down at the start of the weekend, though to Helio Castroneves). In so doing, Sato has firmly entrenched himself in the championship battle.

Scott Dixon-Every time you leave a race weekend as the championship leader, you know it has been a strong weekend. If you do it while nursing an injury, then it could be described as a great weekend.

Dixon may not have won either of the Detroit races, but with finishes of second (Race 1) and sixth (Race 2), he did more than enough to take the championship lead at the end of the weekend, albeit by a scant eight points over Helio Castroneves.

Regardless, given that he is still nursing an injured ankle, contested two races on a notoriously bumpy street circuit, scored strong finishes of second and sixth, and took over the championship lead, one could argue that Dixon may have had the best weekend of everyone.

 

The Bad

Ryan Hunter-Reay: Ryan Hunter-Reay entered Detroit in need of points after a blown engine at the Indy 500 left him 27th in the race and 12th in the championship, 93 points out of the lead.

Detroit wasn’t much better for the 2012 IndyCar champion and 2014 Indy 500 winner. He languished back in 13th at the end of Race 1, and while things looked much better for Race 2 after he qualified second, things quickly soured on lap 10 after contact with Helio Castroneves damaged Hunter-Reay’s front wing. Hunter-Reay could do no better than 17th in Race 2.

Through eight races, Hunter-Reay only has two finishes inside the top 10 (fourth at the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg and third at the INDYCAR Grand Prix at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Road Course), and now sits 13th in the standings, 120 points out of the lead.

JR Hildebrand: Hildebrand has endured a difficult season with Ed Carpenter Racing. A third-place finish at the Desert Diamond West Valley Phoenix Grand Prix at Phoenix Raceway is his best finish of the 2017 season, but it is his only finish inside the top 10 this year.

Detroit was more of the same for Hildebrand. A penalty late in Race 1 for crossing the pit exit line too early after his final pit stop dropped him to 17th, and a cut tire while battling Ed Jones in Race 2 meant he could do no better than 18th.

While he had enough pace to finish in the top ten in both races and is showing improved form at every race, the finishing results continue to leave he and Ed Carpenter Racing wanting for more.

Spencer Pigot: On driving prowess, Pigot has been one of the shining stars this year and has demonstrated a big improvement on form over last year. However, he has also suffered two of the most dramatic mechanical failures of the season.

His brakes exploded while entering his pit stall in St. Petersburg and his engine expired in a billowing cloud of smoke in Race 2 at Detroit. While he finished a solid tenth in Race 1, the engine failure in Race 2 saw a disappointing end to the weekend.

With Ed Carpenter getting back behind the wheel of the No. 20 Fuzzy’s Vodka Chevrolet at Texas Motor Speedway, Pigot’s next race will be the KOHLER Grand Prix at Road America (June 25 at 12:30 p.m. at NBCSN).

 

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