Spencer Pigot to step up to IndyCar with RLL Racing

Photo: Indianapolis Motor Speedway, LLC Photography
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Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires champion Spencer Pigot will move into the Verizon IndyCar Series with Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing, the team has confirmed Tuesday.

Pigot’s three-race program, courtesy of a $1 million scholarship from Mazda, will see the 22-year-old Floridian race at least at St. Petersburg, the Angie’s List Grand Prix of Indianapolis and the 100th Indianapolis 500 in a second Honda-powered entry alongside Graham Rahal.

The intent is to add more rounds, the team confirmed via a release.

While not formally confirmed yet, St. Petersburg is expected to serve as the 2016 season opener on March 13, and the pair of Indianapolis races stand as May’s two race dates.

The move comes a few weeks after Pigot noted the available options out there for him to move up into IndyCar.

“There are a lot of really good teams this year,” Pigot said during an IndyCar media teleconference. “I guess it comes down to which teams have seats available. There are some teams that are full, some one-car teams, some teams that may be looking to expand to another car.

“I think that that’s where the first conversation comes in. Just seeing who has availability for next year and whether or not they’re interested in having me drive for them. There are lots of good teams out there. I don’t really have one in mind that I really want to drive for and I’ll be disappointed if it’s not them.

“At the end of the day, we’ve seen it in IndyCar drivers from lots of different teams can be up there and win races and be on the podium. Just looking for whatever team is the best fit and we can put the strongest package together.”

Also just last week, RLL team co-owner Bobby Rahal said a second car would be “doubtful” at this stage, but didn’t rule it out entirely.

So this news today makes perfect sense for both parties.

It gives Pigot a near-perfect landing place, alongside a fellow American who overachieved in a career year last year, in a team with a well-regarded engineering staff and crew.

“I’m very excited and honored to be starting my career in the Verizon IndyCar Series with Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing,” Pigot said in a team release. “It’s always been my goal to be an Indy car driver and be in the Indianapolis 500. I can’t thank everyone at RLL and Andersen Promotions enough for this opportunity.

“I think it’s a great place for me to be as a rookie because of all the experience within the team. The team is coming off a great 2015 season and hopefully we can build on that success. The 100th running of the Indianapolis 500 is going to be a very special moment for me and the highlight of my career so far. It’s what I’ve been working towards ever since I started racing. It’s the biggest race in the world and I can’t wait to be a part of it.”

Added team co-owner Bobby Rahal, “I have gotten to know Spencer over the years and have been impressed with his progression through the various series, being champion in Pro Mazda and the Indy Lights Series.  Clearly the Indy Lights platform is a very good one for young drivers trying  to reach IndyCar and I am confident that Spencer can shine with our team.

“At RLL, we have a track record of bringing young drivers in to the IndyCar Series like Danica Patrick, and giving experienced drivers new opportunities to recapture their past success like Ryan Hunter-Reay and Buddy Rice did with the team. We’re looking forward to having Spencer, another young American driver in the series, alongside Graham and are excited about what the future holds.”

Justin Grant prevails over Kyle Larson in the Turkey Night Grand Prix

Grant Larson Turkey Night
USACRacing.com / DB3 Inc.
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On the heels of his Hangtown 100 victory, Justin Grant worked his way from 13th in the Turkey Night Grand Prix to beat three-time event winner Kyle Larson by 1.367 seconds. The 81st annual event was run at Ventura (Calif.) Raceway for the sixth time.

“My dad used to take me to Irwindale Speedway, and we’d watch Turkey Night there every year,” Grant said in a series press release. “This is one of the races I fell in love with. I didn’t think I’d ever get a chance to run in it, never thought I’d make a show and certainly never thought I’d be able to win one.”

With its genesis in 1934 at Gilmore Stadium, a quarter-mile dirt track in Los Angeles, the race is steeped in history with winners that include AJ Foyt, Parnelli Jones, Gary Bettenhausen and Johnnie Parsons. Tony Stewart won it in 2000. Kyle Larson won his first of three Turkey Night Grands Prix in 2012. Christopher Bell earned his first of three in 2014, so Grant’s enthusiasm was well deserved.

So was the skepticism that he would win. He failed to crack the top five in three previous attempts, although he came close last year with a sixth-place result. When he lined up for the feature 13th in the crowded 28-car field, winning seemed like a longshot.

Grant watched as serious challengers fell by the wayside. Mitchel Moles flipped on Lap 10 of the feature. Michael “Buddy” Kofoid took a tumble on Lap 68 and World of Outlaws Sprint car driver Carson Macedo flipped on Lap 79. Grant saw the carnage ahead of him and held a steady wheel as he passed Tanner Thorson for the lead with 15 laps remaining and stayed out of trouble for the remainder of the event.

“It’s a dream come true to win the Turkey Night Grand Prix,” Grant said.


Kyle Larson follows Justin Grant to the front on Turkey Night

The 2012, 2016 and 2019 winner, Larson was not scheduled to run the event. His wife Katelyn is expecting their third child shortly, but after a couple of glasses of wine with Thanksgiving dinner and while watching some replays of the event, Larson texted car owner Chad Boat to see if he had a spare car lying around. He did.

“We weren’t great but just hung around and it seemed like anybody who got to the lead crashed and collected some people,” Larson said. “We made some passes throughout; in the mid-portion, we weren’t very good but then we got better at the end.

“I just ran really, really hard there, and knew I was running out of time, so I had to go. I made some pretty crazy and dumb moves, but I got to second and was hoping we could get a caution to get racing with Justin there. He was sliding himself at both ends and thought that maybe we could get a run and just out-angle him into [Turn] 1 and get clear off [Turn] 2 if we got a caution, but it just didn’t work out.”

Larson padded one of the most impressive stats in the history of this race, however. In 10 starts, he’s won three times, finished second four times, was third once and fourth twice.

Bryant Wiedeman took the final spot on the podium.

As Grant and Larson began to pick their way through the field, Kofoid took the lead early from the outside of the front row and led the first 44 laps of the race before handing it over to Cannon McIntosh, who bicycled on Lap 71 before landing on all fours. While Macedo and Thorson tussled for the lead with McIntosh, Grant closed in.

Thorson finished 19th with McIntosh 20th. Macedo recovered from his incident to finish ninth. Kofoid’s hard tumble relegated him to 23rd.

Jake Andreotti in fourth and Kevin Thomas, Jr. rounded out the top five.

1. Justin Grant (started 13)
2. Kyle Larson (22)
3. Bryant Wiedeman (4)
4. Jake Andreotti (9)
5. Kevin Thomas Jr. (1)
6. Logan Seavey (8)
7. Alex Bright (27)
8. Emerson Axsom (24)
9. Carson Macedo (7)
10. Jason McDougal (18)
11. Jake Swanson (16)
12. Chase Johnson (6)
13. Jacob Denney (26)
14. Ryan Timms (23)
15. Chance Crum (28)
16. Brenham Crouch (17)
17. Jonathan Beason (19)
18. Cade Lewis (14)
19. Tanner Thorson (11)
20. Cannon McIntosh (3)
21. Thomas Meseraull (15)
22. Tyler Courtney (21)
23. Buddy Kofoid (2)
24. Brody Fuson (5)
25. Mitchel Moles (20)
26. Daniel Whitley (10)
27. Kaylee Bryson (12)
28. Spencer Bayston (25)