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IndyCar 2016 driver review: Spencer Pigot

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MotorSportsTalk continues its run through the 2016 Verizon IndyCar Series field, driver-by-driver. Ending 21st was Spencer Pigot, who ran most of the races in a year after winning the Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires championship.

Spencer Pigot, No. 16 Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing Honda, No. 20 Ed Carpenter Racing Chevrolet

  • 2015: Indy Lights (champion)
  • 2016: 21st place (10 starts), Best Finish 7th, Best Start 17th, 0 Top-5, 2 Top-10, 0 Laps Led, 20.6 Avg. Start, 15.7 Avg. Finish

Spencer Pigot entered IndyCar as the poster child for the Mazda Road to Indy presented by Cooper Tires, having won four scholarships throughout his career and making it to the championship on the basis of talent alone. And while Pigot was unlucky to have not had a full season – he only started 10 of 16 races – he still did enough in his first go-around to merit a proper first full season in 2017, because he handled some of the challenges that befell him this year like a veteran several years older.

Pigot, only 22, impressed the Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing team early on with his feedback and was positioning himself to get better after a solid debut in St. Petersburg and an even better race at the Angie’s List Grand Prix of Indianapolis. However, a practice crash in Indianapolis proved a bit of a setback for him.

The fact he didn’t know what his future held after the Indianapolis 500 didn’t bode well either, although that question was answered the following week at Detroit when Rising Star Racing – his longtime supporters – assembled an effort to place him in Ed Carpenter’s No. 20 Chevrolet for the remaining road and street races.

Was it an ideal situation, jumping into a new team, new aero kit and engine, with a new crew and new engineer (plus he’d already had different strategists at RLL), with exactly no testing time? Of course it wasn’t, and expectations realistically needed to be tempered.

Pigot didn’t really have a standout weekend with ECR but he was never out-of-place, either. Where he starred was at the weekends where he’d had an in-season test prior; it was no coincidence that Road America and Mid-Ohio provided his best results of the season, and Watkins Glen his best overall weekend from a pace standpoint in practice and the race; admittedly though, not in qualifying.

The area where he struggled most was in qualifying, as he couldn’t seem to crack Firestone’s red alternate tires. He never started better than 17th and inevitably that made his race days tougher, often needing a strategy play to move forward.

But outside of his practice crash at Indy, Pigot proved a safe pair of hands. His only retirement was courtesy of a gearbox issue in the Sonoma season finale and he made no mistakes otherwise. He also starred in sporadic appearances in Mazda’s Prototype at sports car endurance races. He’s in that glut of young talent who deserves another IndyCar shot, but only time will tell if finances can keep him going after talent got him here in the first place.

Zach Veach splits with Andretti Autosport for rest of IndyCar season

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Zach Veach will be leaving his Andretti Autosport ride with three races remaining in the season, choosing to explore options after the decision was made he wouldn’t return for 2021.

In a Wednesday release, Andretti Autosport said a replacement driver for the No. 26 Dallara-Honda would be named in the coming days. The NTT IndyCar Series will race Oct. 2-3 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course and then conclude the season Oct. 25 on the streets of St. Petersburg, Florida.

Veach was ranked 11th in the points standings through 11 races of his third season with Andretti. Since a fourth in the June 6 season opener at Texas Motor Speedway, he hadn’t finished higher than 14th.

“The decision was made that I will not be returning in 2021 with Andretti Autosport in the No. 26 Gainbridge car,” Veach said in the Andretti release. “This, along with knowing that limited testing exists for teams due to COVID, have led me to the decision to step out of the car for the remainder of the 2020 IndyCar season. I am doing this to allow the team to have time with other drivers as they prepare for 2021, and so that I can also explore my own 2021 options.

“This is the hardest decision I have ever made, but to me, racing is about family, and it is my belief that you take care of your family. Andretti Autosport is my family and I feel this is what is best to help us all reach the next step. I will forever be grateful to Michael and the team for all of their support over the years. I would not be where I am today if it wasn’t for a relationship that started many years ago with Road to Indy. I will also be forever grateful to Dan Towriss for his friendship and for the opportunity he and Gainbridge have given me.

“My love for this sport and the people involved is unmeasurable, and I look forward to continuing to be amongst the racing world and fans in 2021.”

Said team owner Michael Andretti: “We first welcomed Zach to the Andretti team back in his USF2000 days and have enjoyed watching him grow and evolve as a racer, and a person. His decision to allow us to use the last few races to explore our 2021 options shows the measure of his character.

“Zach has always placed team and family first, and we’re very happy to have had him as part of ours for so many years. We wish him the best in whatever 2021 may bring and will always consider him a friend.”

Andretti fields five full-time cars for Veach, Alexander Rossi, Ryan Hunter-Reay, Marco Andretti and Colton Herta.

It also has fielded James Hinchcliffe in three races this season.