Spencer Pigot set for incredible opportunity with Team Penske at Sonoma test

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Spencer Pigot was speechless.

It’s not every day you’re asked to drive an IndyCar for Team Penske.

Tim Cindric, the president of Team Penske, had phoned the 21-year-old driver in Indy Lights presented by Cooper Tires to invite him not to be in a race but to take part in this week’s test at Sonoma Raceway with six other drivers.

“I said, ‘Absolutely, I would love to.’ Yeah, very surprised this test has come about, but also very excited and can’t wait to get behind an IndyCar for the first time,” Pigot said in a teleconference last week.

Pigot, the 2014 Pro Mazda champion who stepped up to his rookie season in the Indy Lights series with Juncos Racing, has four wins and eight podiums through 14 races.

He will be in Sonoma to help out defending Verizon IndyCar champion Will Power as he prepares for the Aug. 30 season finale.

“I’ve definitely been watching IndyCar racing ever since I can remember, have always had my favorite drivers and ones I look up to,” Pigot said, citing Power and Scott Dixon as the drivers he has watched over the years.

“So for me climbing up the Mazda Road to Indy, definitely always been looking up to guys like that to hopefully race against and have similar careers that they’ve had.”

Dixon is the only one of the two to have raced in Indy Lights, but that hasn’t kept Power from a championship and 24 open-wheel wins.

When it comes to recent Indy Lights drivers that race in IndyCar, Pigot takes the lead of Josef Newgarden, the 2011 champion.

“For me Josef Newgarden has been kind of a role model for me, being part of the Rising Star Racing program has been good. I can always bounce ideas off him getting advice on different tracks, different corners,” Pigot said.

“At the end of the day they (IndyCar drivers) all know we’re all gunning for IndyCar seats and we’re going to be hopefully competing against them one day so they can’t let all their tricks out.”

Pigot says the advice of drivers like Power can only take him so far in preparing for his maiden voyage in a Dallara IndyCar, which is the “natural progression” up from the IL-15 he has used in Indy Lights this season.

“There’s only so much preparation and things that people can tell you to expect before you just have to go out there and feel it for yourself,” Pigot said. “I’ve been talking to a lot with the guys at Team Penske, looking at video.

“The biggest thing they say is the horsepower is going to be a big difference. Also these new aero kits are creating a significant amount of downforce. The steering is very heavy. I think physically it’s going to be a tougher car to drive.”

And those first few laps may render him speechless once again.

Helio Castroneves ‘hustling’ for IndyCar, IMSA rides; talking with four to five teams

Helio Castroneves IMSA IndyCar
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As his season gathers steam, Helio Castroneves said his prospects for finding new rides for 2021 in IMSA and IndyCar also are gaining momentum.

The three-time Indianapolis 500 winner said Monday he is optimistic about landing in either or perhaps a combination of both series when Team Penske and Acura end their DPi partnership after this season.

“A lot of people I spoke with, four to five teams, are interested,” Castroneves said. “Whether it’s doing Indy 500 only, whether it’s pushing to do full time or do the sports cars as well. It’s been a very nice conversation.

LOOKING AHEADTeam Penske drivers seeking new rides for 2021

“I have a lot of respect for all the teams that have been talking, and I feel the same feedback. We just have to wait for their (sponsor) connections, and I’m also looking for some connections on my side as well, so hopefully we’ll be able to put this together and get something very soon.”

Given two decades of success with Penske in IndyCar and IMSA, Castroneves’ resume hardly needs burnishing. But the Brazilian has combined with co-driver Ricky Taylor in the No. 7 Acura DPi to win the past two overall victories at Road America and Michelin Raceway Road Atlanta.

But Castroneves, who doesn’t have a manager, said he has been working the phones hard rather than wait for the strong results to bring in the calls.

“At this point, I feel like I’m the one who needs to be talking to them because people need to know I want to continue racing and understand my desire,” Castroneves, 45, said. “There is opportunity, no question, in both (IndyCar and IMSA), which I’m really happy about it. However, because of the COVID-19, a lot of things sometimes have to be a little delayed. But I’m excited. Whatever the opportunity and whatever destiny guides me, whether IndyCar or sports cars, trust me I’ll be as happy as it could be and doing my 100 percent like I always did.

“It’s like politics, you need to be out there, good news or bad news. People have to make notice of your presence. I’m hustling. I want to continue to keep it going. Hopefully, we’ll have good news very soon.”

The news has been all good lately on track for Castroneves and Taylor, who hope to continue their run Sunday at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course.

The No. 6 duo has surged to sixth in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship standings, 10 points out of the lead with four races remaining. After thinking there was “no hope” to be competitive after opening the season with three consecutive poor finishes, Taylor now sees an opportunity for a happy ending.

“With the program going away, Helio has won all the big races and given so much back to the team and left such a mark, he’s really part of Penske history,” Taylor said. “For me, it’s been an opportunity of a lifetime to be a part of it. I’d like to leave my little mark as well. Helio has won everything except for a championship.

“Obviously, we’ve won races already together, but we can win a championship now. I think if both of us can do that together and both win our first championship for ‘The Captain,’ that would be an absolute dream come true, and we can tie a bow on it and be happy.”