Pigot enjoys best run in an IndyCar to date, P9 at Road America

Photo: IndyCar

ELKHART LAKE, Wis. – Spencer Pigot had some past track experience in an IndyCar from a one-day test at Road America earlier this month, and the talented 22-year-old American parlayed that into his best race to date on Sunday in the KOHLER Grand Prix.

The driver of the No. 20 Fuzzy’s Vodka Chevrolet for Ed Carpenter Racing started 17th and made his way forward to ninth in his sixth Verizon IndyCar Series start of the year (three apiece with Carpenter and Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing).

The 2015 Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires champion and winningest driver in Mazda Road to Indy history mixed it up with plenty of series veterans in arguably his best drive to date that resulted in his best career finish thus far.

“It was great. It was a really fun race!” Pigot told NBC Sports post-race. “We spent most of it a little off strategy trying to get a clear track. I had to save fuel.

“The guys gave me an awesome car. I really enjoyed it. Pushed hard throughout most of the race. It was kind of interesting to see who I came out with, and how much time I gained or lost. It got wild at the end, because you have to fight so hard for every position. There were a couple times going into Turn 5, where it was me and Carlos (Munoz), then me and Simon (Pagenaud), where one of us braked way too late but we somehow came out the other end.

“I can’t thank this team and Rising Star Racing enough for the opportunity.”

Pigot also did a good job of managing both his Firestone black primary and red alternate tires over the course of the race.

“It was pretty good actually,” he said. “We started the race on used reds. I was in a lot of traffic. But the blacks held up. We didn’t have much tire deg over the course of a lap time.”

Team owner Carpenter, who will return to the wheel of the No. 20 car at the Iowa Corn 300 on July 10 before Pigot is back in at Toronto, hailed Pigot’s performance.

“It’s Spencer’s first top-10 I think in an IndyCar race. So that’s awesome, and we’re really happy for him,” Carpenter told NBC Sports. “He’s getting better quick. We don’t show it all the time, but from the team we’re seeing the potential he has. He’s going to get better and better and better.”

Justin Grant prevails over Kyle Larson in the Turkey Night Grand Prix

Grant Larson Turkey Night
USACRacing.com / DB3 Inc.

On the heels of his Hangtown 100 victory, Justin Grant worked his way from 13th in the Turkey Night Grand Prix to beat three-time event winner Kyle Larson by 1.367 seconds. The 81st annual event was run at Ventura (Calif.) Raceway for the sixth time.

“My dad used to take me to Irwindale Speedway, and we’d watch Turkey Night there every year,” Grant said in a series press release. “This is one of the races I fell in love with. I didn’t think I’d ever get a chance to run in it, never thought I’d make a show and certainly never thought I’d be able to win one.”

With its genesis in 1934 at Gilmore Stadium, a quarter-mile dirt track in Los Angeles, the race is steeped in history with winners that include AJ Foyt, Parnelli Jones, Gary Bettenhausen and Johnnie Parsons. Tony Stewart won it in 2000. Kyle Larson won his first of three Turkey Night Grands Prix in 2012. Christopher Bell earned his first of three in 2014, so Grant’s enthusiasm was well deserved.

So was the skepticism that he would win. He failed to crack the top five in three previous attempts, although he came close last year with a sixth-place result. When he lined up for the feature 13th in the crowded 28-car field, winning seemed like a longshot.

Grant watched as serious challengers fell by the wayside. Mitchel Moles flipped on Lap 10 of the feature. Michael “Buddy” Kofoid took a tumble on Lap 68 and World of Outlaws Sprint car driver Carson Macedo flipped on Lap 79. Grant saw the carnage ahead of him and held a steady wheel as he passed Tanner Thorson for the lead with 15 laps remaining and stayed out of trouble for the remainder of the event.

“It’s a dream come true to win the Turkey Night Grand Prix,” Grant said.

Kyle Larson follows Justin Grant to the front on Turkey Night

The 2012, 2016 and 2019 winner, Larson was not scheduled to run the event. His wife Katelyn is expecting their third child shortly, but after a couple of glasses of wine with Thanksgiving dinner and while watching some replays of the event, Larson texted car owner Chad Boat to see if he had a spare car lying around. He did.

“We weren’t great but just hung around and it seemed like anybody who got to the lead crashed and collected some people,” Larson said. “We made some passes throughout; in the mid-portion, we weren’t very good but then we got better at the end.

“I just ran really, really hard there, and knew I was running out of time, so I had to go. I made some pretty crazy and dumb moves, but I got to second and was hoping we could get a caution to get racing with Justin there. He was sliding himself at both ends and thought that maybe we could get a run and just out-angle him into [Turn] 1 and get clear off [Turn] 2 if we got a caution, but it just didn’t work out.”

Larson padded one of the most impressive stats in the history of this race, however. In 10 starts, he’s won three times, finished second four times, was third once and fourth twice.

Bryant Wiedeman took the final spot on the podium.

As Grant and Larson began to pick their way through the field, Kofoid took the lead early from the outside of the front row and led the first 44 laps of the race before handing it over to Cannon McIntosh, who bicycled on Lap 71 before landing on all fours. While Macedo and Thorson tussled for the lead with McIntosh, Grant closed in.

Thorson finished 19th with McIntosh 20th. Macedo recovered from his incident to finish ninth. Kofoid’s hard tumble relegated him to 23rd.

Jake Andreotti in fourth and Kevin Thomas, Jr. rounded out the top five.

1. Justin Grant (started 13)
2. Kyle Larson (22)
3. Bryant Wiedeman (4)
4. Jake Andreotti (9)
5. Kevin Thomas Jr. (1)
6. Logan Seavey (8)
7. Alex Bright (27)
8. Emerson Axsom (24)
9. Carson Macedo (7)
10. Jason McDougal (18)
11. Jake Swanson (16)
12. Chase Johnson (6)
13. Jacob Denney (26)
14. Ryan Timms (23)
15. Chance Crum (28)
16. Brenham Crouch (17)
17. Jonathan Beason (19)
18. Cade Lewis (14)
19. Tanner Thorson (11)
20. Cannon McIntosh (3)
21. Thomas Meseraull (15)
22. Tyler Courtney (21)
23. Buddy Kofoid (2)
24. Brody Fuson (5)
25. Mitchel Moles (20)
26. Daniel Whitley (10)
27. Kaylee Bryson (12)
28. Spencer Bayston (25)