Rolex recap: IndyCar rookie Spencer Pigot’s effort goes up in smoke

(Photo: Indianapolis Motor Speedway, LLC Photography)

Spencer Pigot is looking forward to his Verizon IndyCar Series debut with Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing in about six weeks for the season-opening race at St. Petersburg.

If he has his way, the reigning Indy Lights champion will catch fire and smoke many of his opponents.

But hopefully not the way the 22-year-old Florida resident’s day ended early Sunday in the Rolex 24 Hours at Daytona.

Pigot had just hopped out of the No. 55 Mazda Motorsports Prototype around 2 a.m. ET and turned it over to teammate Tristan Nunez. The other driver on the team was Jonathan Bomarito.

Instead of Pigot’s performance sparking something in Nunez to continue a rally that Pigot began during his prior driving stint, a different kind of spark occurred.

The transmission in the Mazda inexplicably broke and then caught fire. Rescue teams were unable to salvage the vehicle and it retired after 327 laps (of the 736-lap event) and about 12 hours short of its finishing goal.

As a result, Pigot and Co. finished a disappointing 49th out of the 54-car field (although it was 10th in-class of the 13 entries in the Prototype class). It was also not a good day for the other Mazda team (No. 70 of Joel Miller, Ben Devlin and Tom Long), which finished last in the field, bowing out after just 11 laps on Saturday.

Despite the fiery ending, Pigot felt it was a good experience overall and the longest amount of time he’s ever been in a race car.

“The original plan was for me to only do three stints and then they asked me if I felt all right enough to do another one,” Pigot said in a media release. “That fourth stint was a lot of fun; I was finally up with all the DPs and Prototype cars. It was more of the same class instead of always passing GT cars. I’m glad I got to stick around that last stint.”

Pigot can now turn his attention back to his IndyCar duties, including testing in the next couple of weeks. But he’s glad he had the Rolex experience.

“There (was) lots of dust and dirt on the track, there’s a lot of oil on the track,” he said. “A few of us all spun on oil late in my stint there, so that was kind of tricky.

“Just a lot of cars, a lot of traffic. Sometimes you can’t really do much but just wait until the straightaway (to make passes). Way different than what I’m used to, but I really enjoyed it.”

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