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Spencer Pigot feeling right at home at Sebring and in IndyCar

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There’s nothing like relative home turf to get a driver comfortable.

Such was the case for Spencer Pigot during Tuesday’s first of two days of testing at Sebring International Raceway.

The 2015 Indy Lights champion is a native of nearby Orlando, Florida. So when he came to Sebring, he was ready to have at it, especially with his debut in the Verizon IndyCar Series season-opening race coming across the state in St. Petersburg on March 13.

The 22-year-old driver for Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing whipped around the 1.65-mile road course like he was dancing with a favorite partner, completing a stout 166 laps.

“The day was great,” said Pigot, who is taking part in additional testing today with teammate Graham Rahal. “Our approach was to just get me comfortable in the car and comfortable working with everyone on the team and I think that went very well, very smoothly.

“We were able to get going pretty well early on in the day and I immediately felt comfortable in the car. From then I just focused on getting used to it and improving my driving and improving the car as well. It was a great day; we made a lot of improvements in all areas. The guys worked really hard. It was definitely a very productive day that we can build on and learn more (Wednesday).”

Moving to a full-time ride in IndyCar is the next logical step for Pigot, who won six of 16 races, had 10 podium finishes and four pole positions en route to last year’s Indy Lights championship. He’d also won the 2014 Pro Mazda championship in dramatic fashion, even though he had six wins, five poles and seven podium appearances.

“Our goal for today was to get Spencer comfortable in the car and steadily get up to speed and he did a great job and ended with competitive lap times,” RLL team manager Ricardo Nault said. “He gave great feedback over the course of the day and we made several changes so that he could understand the impact they made.

“We were also able to practice pit stops which will be new for him this season and overall it was great experience.”

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James Hinchcliffe on Andretti: ‘It’s certainly the place I want to be’

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Since before the start of the 2020 NTT IndyCar Series season, James Hinchcliffe tirelessly has worked to ensure the future would include a full-time return in 2021.

And with an opportunity to run the final three races this season with Andretti Autosport, there seems a surefire (albeit unlikely) path.

“If I go out and win all three,” Hinchcliffe joked with IndyCar on NBC announcer Leigh Diffey in an interview Friday (watch the video above), “it would be hard for them to say no, right?”

Regardless of whether he can go unbeaten at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course next weekend or the Oct. 25 season finale at St. Petersburg, Florida (where he earned his first career win in 2013), Hinchcliffe will have the chance to improve his stock with the team that he knows well and now has an opening among its five cars for 2021.

All three of Hinchcliffe’s starts this season — the June 6 season opener at Texas Motor Speedway, July 4 at the IMS road course and the Indianapolis 500 — were with Andretti, where he ran full time in IndyCar from 2012-14.

“Obviously, the plan from January 2020 was already working on ’21 and trying to be in a full-time program,” he said. “I’ve really enjoyed being reunited with Andretti Autosport, and everybody there has been so supportive. It’s been a very fun year for me on track. It’s been kind of a breath of fresh air in a lot of ways.

“It’s certainly the place I want to be moving forward. We’ve been working on that, working on those conversations. Genesys has been an incredible partner in my three races. We’ll be representing Gainbridge primarily, but Genesys will still have a position on our car in the last three.”

Gainbridge is the primary sponsor of the No. 26 Dallara-Honda that was vacated by Zach Veach, who left the team after it was determined he wouldn’t return in 2021. Hinchcliffe can empathize having lost his ride with Arrow McLaren SP after last season with a year left on his deal.

“You never want to earn a ride at the expense of somebody else in the sense that has happened here with Zach,” Hinchcliffe said. “I feel bad that he’s not able to see out the last three races of his season. I’ve got a lot of respect for him off track. He’s been a teammate this year, a colleague for years before that and honestly a friend for years before that. I’ve got a lot of time for him and his family. I understand a little bit of what it’s like in that position and what he’s going through.”

Hinchcliffe is ready to seize the moment, though, starting with the Oct. 2-3 doubleheader race weekend at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. He had been hoping to add the Harvest Indy Grand Prix to his schedule and had been working out for the possibility.

“Then last week I had given up hope (and) was resigned that wasn’t happening,” he said. “I told my trainer, ‘I think we’re done for this year.’ Three days later, this call comes. I’m glad we didn’t make that decision too early. I feel great physically.

“I look at it as a great opportunity to continue to show I’ve still got what it takes and should be there hopefully full time next year on the grid.”

Watch Hinchliffe’s video with Leigh Diffey above or by clicking here.