Spencer Pigot’s IndyCar debut arrives, at last, in home race

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This Sunday is the culmination of a dream for 22-year-old Spencer Pigot.

The Orlando native really couldn’t have picked a better place to make his Verizon IndyCar Series debut after his incredible five-year run through the Mazda Road to Indy than the streets of St. Petersburg.

When Pigot straps into the No. 16 Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing Honda, thanks to the support of Mazda and Dan Andersen among others, he’ll have fulfilled the nearly perfect rise over the last few years having been the first to secure four Mazda scholarships.

Pigot’s record at St. Petersburg is nothing short of incredible. In 10 career starts in the Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires, Pro Mazda Championship Presented by Cooper Tires and Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda he has 10 career top-five finishes, including five wins.

In fact, the craziest note among all those past five weekends at St. Petersburg is that he’s finished in the same position in both races of a doubleheader each year but one.

His St. Pete debut, in USF2000 with Andretti Autosport in 2011, saw him finish first and second. A second go-around in USF2000 saw him sweep the races in 2012 for Cape Motorsports with Wayne Taylor Racing.

Once in Pro Mazda, Pigot banged out two fourth places (2013 with Team Pelfrey), then two crushing wins (2014 with Juncos Racing), which helped launch his Pro Mazda title run that season.

Last year, the string of success continued – Pigot secured two third places with Juncos in both his and the team’s full-time step up to Indy Lights, in the first weekend of the new Dallara IL-15 Mazda chassis. They were his first two podiums in his eventual run to the Indy Lights championship.

Needless to say, the past success and the home track advantage is something that makes for a dream debut scenario for Pigot.

“St. Pete is gonna be great,” he told NBC Sports during the Phoenix Test in the West. “I have had a lot of success there. There’s always a lot of friends and family that support me.

“There’s not a better place to make my debut in IndyCar than there. I’ve been going to that race much longer than I’ve been competing. Really, I’m just counting down the days.”

Pigot’s humility and calm demeanor is something that stands out. He never gets too high after his success, or too low after any disappointments.

It’s those qualities that have already endeared himself to both team co-owner Bobby Rahal and teammate Graham Rahal, who had the chance to work with Pigot at both Phoenix (when he was on the timing stand) and Sebring (where he tested last week) in the last couple weeks.

Photo: IndyCar
Photo: IndyCar

“I was really pleased with Spencer’s job. He did a great job for us,” Bobby Rahal told NBC Sports. “He’s (already) right there. He didn’t put a foot wrong. I think he really gelled with the team, and the team with him. I was really pleased with the job he did.”

Graham Rahal added, “He’s got a great head on his shoulders. Great kid. He’s confident, but what I like most about Spencer is his modesty.

“These young kids come out having been successful in their younger years, and then for example Sage Karam figured this out last year, they find out, (in IndyCar) they’re not chumps.

“I told Spencer, one of the things I like about him a lot, is that’s he’s very humble. Those are the guys I want to spend time helping out.

“For me, he’s gonna be a big part of this program going forward.”

Pigot’s in a scenario where St. Petersburg will very likely be his only race until the month of May, when he’ll also race in the Angie’s List Grand Prix of Indianapolis and 100th Indianapolis 500 presented by PennGrade Motor Oil as part of his three-race Mazda scholarship package.

That presents a situation where Pigot has to balance impressing on debut with cleanliness, wanting to try to stand out but also not taking any undue risk where it can be avoided. He’ll have Neil Fife as his engineer and Rahal on the timing stand as strategist for St. Petersburg.

“It’s kinda tricky,” Pigot explained. “You want to finish well and as high as you can. “The key is to do a good job for the team, buy just trying to focus on doing the best for myself.

“But I’m not gonna be afraid to go and pass if there’s an opportunity, say because I don’t want to take my wing off. I’m still gonna be aggressive where I can, and do the best I can.”

It remains to be seen whether Pigot will race in any further events this year beyond the first three he’s confirmed for. As the Rahals related, it’s not Pigot that’s the hold-up, it’s finding enough quality people to ensure Pigot can deliver when in the seat.

“The thing that makes our team work is the quality of people,” Bobby Rahal said. “At this stage, finding the people we’d need for a full-time basis, we wouldn’t find. So that begs the question, why do it?

“We’re able to do the races we can with Spencer. We can have some of our BMW (Team RLL IMSA program) guys assist, as most have IndyCar experience and originally were. We can stick our toe in here and there. We’d do it with high quality people.

“Spencer or anyone else would be limited this year, but would I like to have a two-car team down the road? Absolutely. But we’d need to make sure the second program contributes to the overall program.”

Pigot’s optimistic about St. Pete and just focused on ensuring he does the best he can with this limited opportunity. Some drivers like Will Power, Simon Pagenaud and Ryan Hunter-Reay, for example, have turned part-time starts into full-time seats in recent years.

“Most likely we won’t do anything else before Indy but post-Indy, there’s a chance of doing some more races,” Pigot said.

“It won’t be a full season this year. But adding onto these three would be great.”

Starting lineup grid for IMSA Petit Le Mans: Tom Blomqvist puts MSR on pole position

Petit Le Mans lineup
IMSA
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IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar championship contender Tom Blomqvist put the Meyer Shank Racing Acura at the front of the starting lineup for the Motul Petit Le Mans at Michelin Road Atlanta.

Blomqvist turned a 1-minute, 8.55-second lap on the 2.54-mile circuit Friday to capture his third pole position for MSR this season. Earl Bamber qualified second in the No. 02 Cadillac for Chip Ganassi Racing.

Ricky Taylor was third in the No. 10 Acura of Wayne Taylor Racing, which enters Saturday’s season finale with a 19-point lead over the No. 60 of Blomqvist and Oliver Jarvis (who will be joined by Helio Castroneves) for the 10-hour race.

PETIT LE MANS STARTING GRID: Click here for the starting lineup l Lineup by car number

PETIT LE MANS: Info on how to watch

With the pole, MSR sliced the deficit to 14 points behind WTR, which will field the trio of Taylor, Filipe Albuquerque and Brendon Hartley in Saturday’s race.

“We really needed to put the car in this kind of position,” Blomqvist said. “It makes our life a little less stressful tomorrow. It would have given the No. 10 a bit more breathing space. It’s going to be a proper dogfight tomorrow. The guys gave me such a great car. It’s been fantastic this week so far, and it really came alive. I’m hugely thankful to the boys and girls at MSR for giving me the wagon today to execute my job.

“That was a big effort from me. I knew how important it was. It’s just awesome for the guys to give them some sort of reward as well. It’s always nice to be quick. If you do the pole, you know you’ve got a quick car.”

Though WTR has a series-leading four victories with the No. 10, MSR won the Rolex 24 at Daytona and has five runner-up finishes along with its three poles.

The strong performances of the ARX-05s ensure that an Acura will win the final championship in IMSA’s premier Daytona Prototype international (DPi) division, which is being rebranded as Grand Touring Prototype in the move to LMDh cars next season.

Taylor qualified third despite sliding into the Turn 5 gravel during the closing minutes of qualifying while pushing to gain points.

“Qualifying was important for points,” Taylor said. “Going into it, if we outqualified the No. 60 Meyer Shank Acura, they had a lot to lose in terms of championship points. So, we were trying to increase the gap over 20 points which would’ve made a big difference for tomorrow. We would have loved to get the pole and qualify ahead of the No. 60, but in the scheme of the points, it didn’t change a whole lot. I’m feeling good since it’s such a long race, and the No. 10 Konica Minolta Acura team does such a good job strategizing and putting us in a good position.

“I’m very confident in our lineup and our team compared to them over the course of 10 hours. I’d put my two teammates up against those guys any day. I think we are all feeling optimistic and strong for tomorrow.”

In other divisions, PR1 Mathiasen Motorsports (LMP2), Riley Motorsports (LMP3), VasserSullivan (GTD Pro) and Paul Miller Racing (GTD) captured pole positions.

The broadcast of the 10-hour race will begin Saturday at 12:10 p.m. ET on NBC, moving at 3 p.m. to USA Network.


QUALIFYING

Results

Results by class

Fastest lap by driver

Fastest lap by driver after qualifying

Fastest lap by driver and class after qualifying

Fastest lap sequence in qualifying

Best sector times in qualifying

Time cards in qualifying

PRACTICE RESULTS: Session I l Session II l Session III