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.