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Spencer Pigot to step up to IndyCar with RLL Racing

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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.”

Dale Earnhardt Jr. believes Indy 500 should never have guaranteed starting positions

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Bruce Martin Photo
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INDIANAPOLIS – Like many viewers watching last weekend’s Indianapolis 500 “Bump Day” on NBC, former NASCAR star Dale Earnhardt, Jr. was captivated by the drama.

He also believes INDYCAR should not follow NASCAR’s path of “Chartered Teams” locking up positions in the major races; such as the Daytona 500. That has taken away the excitement and drama of the Daytona Duels.

“Not trying to get myself in the weeds here, but I think Indy could look at the history of NASCAR and how it has changed the excitement for some of the Duels and qualifying,” Earnhardt told NBC Sports.com. “I would not go in that direction. If I was in control of things, I would not pull those levers to have guaranteed spots. The thrill of Bump Day and the battle for the final row, increased the value of Sunday and viewership for Sunday. It taught people about other drivers and teams. We don’t learn those things if you don’t see them going through that battle and experience.

“I thought it was a tremendous win for the people that want to keep things at Indy as they are.”

Earnhardt, who is part of NBC’s crew for Sunday’s telecast of the 103rdIndianapolis 500, believes the way it all played out created a storyline that enhances the interest in the 500-Mile Race.

“I experienced the drama before with Bump Day that has happened here in this race in the past, but I thought it was symbolic with the conversation going on about guaranteed spots,” Earnhardt said. “For the folks who are the traditionalists who believe you have to earn your way in, it was a great day for those folks and their argument. Fernando Alonso and how that story played out and his reaction to not making it, I thought he handled it like the champion he is. All of that was interesting.

“The little teams beating the big teams was pretty cool. It created some really exciting stuff and did nothing but build excitement in the race.

“Even though Alonso is not in the race, I’m just as interested, or more interested, than I was before. Them not being in the race didn’t change it for me. If anything, that whole drama and how it played out made me more excited to see the event.”

Earnhardt is attending his first Indianapolis 500 in person. He will be part of NBC’s Indianapolis 500 Pre-race show along with Mike Tirico and 2005 Indianapolis 500 Rookie of the Year Danica Patrick.

Earnhardt will also drive the Pace Car to lead the 33-car starting lineup to the green flag to start the 103rdIndianapolis 500. The green flag is scheduled to wave at 12:45 p.m. Eastern Time.