IndyCar: Gabby Chaves gets a crucial second test, this time with BHA

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Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires champion Gabby Chaves will have his second run in an IndyCar when he tests for Bryan Herta Autosport on December 17 at Sebring International Raceway.

Chaves enters the test fresh off a win in the Six Hours of Bogota sports car race in Colombia – more here from IndyCar.com.

The Colombian American had his first go for Schmidt Peterson Motorsports also in Florida, at the Homestead-Miami Speedway road course in September.

Chaves was pleased with his efforts at the time, as he said “it didn’t feel like his first time” in an IndyCar. Additionally, his efforts really pleased SPM team manager Rob Edwards.

“I was happy we could give Gabby an opportunity,” Edwards told MotorSportsTalk when SPM announced James Hinchcliffe’s signing at Flat 12 Bierworks in Indianapolis in October.

“We ran him in Lights 2013. I thought it was interesting running him. Him having two years in Lights definitely benefitted him.

“With his level of maturity, and his approach to the whole test, he’s deserving of an opportunity in a big car for sure.”

This will be an important test for Chaves because both BHA and SPM have a seat open for 2015. BHA has its single car to fill and SPM’s second seat is open alongside Hinchcliffe.

While Chaves will have $750,000 in scholarship funding to bring to a team after winning the title on the highest rung of the Mazda Road to Indy ladder, that’s not necessarily a guarantee of a full-time seat in the championship.

Witness Chaves’ ex-SPM Lights teammate Sage Karam being unable to put together a full-season program for 2014, although he was able to debut strongly at the Indianapolis 500.

Chaves said after winning the Indy Lights title he’ll do the Indianapolis 500 for sure, with other races to be determined depending, as always, on funding.

However Chaves’ path is already starting to look similar to Jack Hawksworth’s, who was in a similar position last year, and that’s a good thing.

The lanky Englishman – and another of Chaves’ 2013 SPM Indy Lights teammates – had tests for Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing and Dale Coyne Racing in similar time frames (September and December 2013), before a last-minute surprise test with Herta’s team in the spring led to his shot there.

As we saw this season, Hawksworth overachieved on a single-car team and was able to move on after one season, from BHA into a second seat with A.J. Foyt Enterprises.

Chaves beat Hawksworth head-to-head that Indy Lights season in 2013, finishing only behind Karam, and is next up on the list of drivers deserving of an IndyCar opportunity.

One other thing to note – Chaves will be testing a day after SPM tries out Italian Davide Valsecchi does on the same course. Times won’t be official, but it will be very intriguing to watch how both potential rookies fare in their outings.

It’s a bit like Grapefruit League spring training in baseball, except in winter, since it’s a case of young talent seeing if they can break into the big leagues.

Report: Spencer Pigot out at Ed Carpenter Racing

Joe Skibinski / IndyCar
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Spencer Pigot will not return to Ed Carpenter Racing in 2020, according to a story Thursday by RACER.com.

The 26-year-old Floridian, who won the 2015 Indy Lights championship, is expected to be replaced in the No. 21 Chevrolet by 2019 Indy Lights runner-up Rinus VeeKay.

“I’m appreciative of the opportunity ECR gave me,” Pigot told RACER.com. “I understand the reasons they had to go in a different direction, and wish them all the best.”

In 56 NTT IndyCar Series starts, Pigot has 15 top 10 finishes, with a best finish of second at Iowa in 2018. He finished 14th in the 2019 point standings.

VeeKay, who tested in an Indy car twice for ECR in 2019, has six wins in 18 Indy Lights starts, including a weekend sweep of the final two rounds of the season at Laguna Seca in September.

A representative from ECR told NBC Sports Thursday that the team currently could not comment on any driver rumors as the team currently does not have any drivers under contract for the 2020 season, although it is presumed that owner/driver Carpenter will return to the No. 20 entry for the oval rounds.

NBC Sports will provide updates on the story once more information becomes available.