IndyCar

IndyCar: Spencer Pigot to remain with Ed Carpenter Racing for 2019

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Spencer Pigot will remain behind the wheel of the Ed Carpenter Racing No. 21 Chevrolet for the 2019 IndyCar season, the team announced Thursday.

Pigot will enter his second full-time season with and fourth season overall of racing for ECR next year, as well as mark his fourth season in the IndyCar Series.

The 2018 season was a transitional period for Pigot, who went from a part-time role with ECR in 2016 and 2017 to a full-time campaign this year.

That move has paid marked dividends for Pigot in 2018. He earned career bests in qualifying and finishing positions on street courses, road courses and ovals, including his first IndyCar career podium finish, a runner-up showing at Iowa Speedway in July.

“I’m extremely happy to be returning to Ed Carpenter Racing for the 2019 season,” Pigot said in a statement. “I have to thank Ed Carpenter, Stuart Reed and Tony George for giving me the opportunity to race for their team once again.

“It’s been great to compete in my first full season of IndyCar racing this year and I look forward to building on that next year. We have a lot to look back on and learn from; we will be working hard over the offseason and will be able to hit the ground running when we get to next season’s opener in St. Petersburg.”

In addition to his second-place finish at Iowa, Pigot also set new career marks in road course qualifying (Grand Prix of Indianapolis), best start (6th) in his third career Indianapolis 500 (his first with ECR) and best road course finish (4th nearly two weeks ago at Portland International Raceway).

The Orlando, Florida native and 2015 Indy Lights series champion enters this weekend’s season-ending Grand Prix of Sonoma having strong back-to-back finishes of sixth at Gateway Motorsports Park and fourth at Portland. All but four of his 38 career IndyCar starts have been with ECR.

“I am really happy to have Spencer back in the No. 21 for the 2019 season,” team owner Ed Carpenter said in a statement. “We have always believed that Spencer has the potential to compete for race wins and championships and he has really showed that in the back half of this season.

“Hopefully we can break through this weekend at the season finale and get ECR back in the win column.”

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Max Verstappen shows speed in Austria; Lewis Hamilton lacking pace

Leonhard Foeger/Pool via Getty Images
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SPIELBERG, Austria — Red Bull driver Max Verstappen posted the fastest time Friday, and six-time Formula One champion Lewis Hamilton lacked pace in the second practice session for the Styrian Grand Prix.

Verstappen was 0.043 seconds quicker than Valtteri Bottas – Hamilton’s teammate at Mercedes – and 0.217 ahead of Racing Point driver Sergio Perez.

“The car already feels better than last week, the balance is a lot nicer and we have made a good step,” said Verstappen, who did not finish last Sunday’s season-opening Austrian GP after starting from second.

“It is too early to say how we are looking against Mercedes, but we are quite happy. We have tried a few different directions to understand the car a bit more and we are heading the right way.”

Hamilton was only sixth fastest, about 0.7 seconds slower than Verstappen. Hamilton spent a chunk of time in the garage while his team worked on his car.

“It was quite far off, so there’s a lot of work to do in the background to figure it out,” he said. “Others out there are quick and Valtteri’s obviously got good pace.”

Despite adding a new front wing to its car, struggling Ferrari had a dismal afternoon.

Charles Leclerc was only ninth quickest and 1 second slower than Verstappen, while teammate Sebastian Vettel lagged about 2 seconds behind Verstappen in 16th.

Daniel Ricciardo lost control of his Renault car early into the second session, swerving left off the track and thudding backward into a protective tire wall. He climbed out unharmed, other than a slight limp, but the left rear tire was mangled and the car was lifted off the track by a crane.

Alexander Albon spun twice, the Red Bull driver’s second spin taking him right off the track and into gravel.

Earlier, Perez was fastest in the first practice ahead of Verstappen and Bottas, with Hamilton fourth quickest and Vettel only 10th in sunny conditions.

That session was briefly interrupted when Nicholas Latifi’s Williams car pulled over to the side with a gearbox issue.

The incident brought out yellow flags, forcing drivers to slow down. But McLaren driver Lando Norris overtook Pierre Gasly’s AlphaTauri and got a three-place grid penalty for Sunday’s race.

Norris, 20, finished third at the Austrian GP last weekend, becoming the youngest British driver in F1 history to get on the podium and third youngest in F1.

The upcoming race is changing names from last week but is at the same track. It is surrounded by the Styrian mountains.

A third and final practice will be held on Saturday morning before qualifying in the afternoon, with heavy rain and storms in the forecast.

If third practice and qualifying are washed out, drivers take their grid positions from where they placed in second practice.

“It would definitely suck if we didn’t get to qualify,” said Hamilton, who started fifth and finished fourth last weekend. “It would make it challenging.”

However, qualifying also could be moved to Sunday morning.

“I don’t expect to be on pole position with this (practice) lap,” Verstappen said.