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

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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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IndyCar teams with NASCAR on IMS road course doubleheader in 2021

IndyCar NASCAR doubleheader 2021
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The NTT IndyCar Series will be sharing Indianapolis Motor Speedway with the NASCAR Cup Series in a race weekend doubleheader for the second consecutive season, but both series will be on the road course in August 2021.

IMS announced Wednesday that IndyCar will hold an Aug. 14, 2021 race on its 14-turn, 2.439-mile road course. It’ll be a day before NASCAR’s premier series runs the same layout for the first time after the Brickyard 400 was contested on the 2.5-mile oval for the first time in 27 years.

This season’s rescheduling of the IndyCar GMR Grand Prix to July 4, 2019 (a day before the Brickyard 400) led to the first NASCAR-IndyCar doubleheader weekend. The Xfinity Series also raced on the IMS road course for the first time July 4 after the IndyCar race ended.

INDYCAR AT IMS THIS WEEKEND: Harvest GP schedule, entry lists

IndyCar will be holding its second race weekend this year at the IMS road course Friday and Saturday with the Harvest GP.

“Our first NASCAR-INDYCAR weekend was a big success last July, with positive feedback from
our loyal fans who watched the races on NBC and from the drivers, teams and participants
involved,” IMS president Douglas Boles said in a statement. “The Xfinity Series’ debut on the IMS road course provided exactly the kind of thrilling action from the green to checkered flags that we anticipated, so we know the teams and drivers of the Cup Series will put on a great show as they turn left and right for the first time at IMS.

“We can’t wait to welcome back fans to see NASCAR and INDYCAR together during this
exciting weekend as we add another memorable chapter in the long, storied history of the
Indianapolis Motor Speedway.”

It also will mark the first NASCAR Cup-IndyCar doubleheader with a crowd as fans weren’t permitted at IMS in July because of the novel coronvavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

Over the course of Wednesday, NASCAR is releasing its 36-race slate for next season. IndyCar has yet to release its full 2021 schedule.