Pigot Proving He Belongs in IndyCar

Photo Credit: Motorsport

A name you don’t hear too often if you watch a Verizon IndyCar Series race is that of 22-year-old American Spencer Pigot. Slowly but surely, however, fans of the sport are beginning to take serious notice of the young racing talent from Orlando, Florida.

Pigot, who won the 2014 Pro Mazda Championship and the 2015 Indy Lights Championship driving for Juncos Racing, winning 6 races each year, made his Verizon IndyCar Series debut back in the 2016 season opener at the Grand Prix of St. Petersburg, where he finished in 14th place after a solid day, having moved up 7 positions from back where he started.

In that race, and in the next 2 races Pigot partook in, he was driving for Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing in a Honda-powered car. He did not return to the series to drive in those next 2 races, however, until over 2 months later after the season opener at St. Petersburg. When he did, he showed signs of growth, qualifying 18th and finishing 11th at the Grand Prix of Indianapolis.

At the Indianapolis 500, Pigot had a crash in practice and was not particularly strong speed-wise, starting in the 29th position and finishing in 25th, which is to be expected for a young rookie taking to the Brickyard track for the first time in some of the fastest cars in the world. Still, though, he moved up 4 spots relative to his starting position.

After the Indianapolis 500, it was announced that Pigot would join Ed Carpenter Racing for the rest of the season on the road and street courses as the driver of a Chevrolet-powered car. In his first 2 races as a part-time driver for Ed Carpenter Racing, Pigot finished in 17th place after qualifying in 21st place and in 18th place after qualifying in 20th place at the 2 Dual in Detroit races, making it 5 for 5 in terms of finishing races in higher positions than he started.

At the Kohler Grand Prix at Road America, Pigot finished in 9th place after starting the race back in 17th place, giving him his 1st career top 10 finish, and making the Kohler Grand Prix the race during which he advanced the most positions. It was the 6th race out of 6 for Pigot where he improved his position during the course of the race.

The following race which Pigot participated in was held in Toronto, and again he finished higher than where he started in that event, despite not quite adapting to the streets of Toronto that well, finishing in 19th place after starting back in 21st place.

Last weekend’s race at Mid-Ohio was the best of Pigot’s IndyCar career, and it showed us all that Pigot belongs here in the Verizon IndyCar Series. After qualifying in 19th, Pigot advanced a career-high 12 positions over the course of the race to finish in a career-high 7th place for his 2nd career top 10 finish in the series.

Despite having driven in only 8 races out of the 12 that have been completed thus far this season, Pigot sits in a tie for 6th place in this year’s Tag Heuer “Don’t Crack Under Pressure” standings, which measure how many spots drivers have moved up relative to their starting positions, and he is doing it as a rookie. He has moved up a total of 46 positions thus far this season, which is just 24 positions fewer than Conor Daly, who leads these standings as a fellow rookie driver and has driven in every race this season.

What Pigot has done over the course of his first 8 races during his rookie season driving an IndyCar may not seem spectacular, but the fact that he has finished every race that he has driven in so far this season is very impressive, especially for a rookie. Not only is that impressive and very rare, but even more is impressive is the fact that Pigot has always finished higher than where he has started on the starting grid in each and every race he has driven in.

The only other active Verizon IndyCar Series drivers of the other 34 drivers not including Pigot who have driven in at least one race this season to not only have finished each of their first 8 races in the series, but to have improved their position from the start of each race to the finish of each race in each of their first 8 races in the series (NOTE: this does not include the races driven by some of the older drivers in CART or Champ Car) are Gabby Chaves, the 2014 Indy Lights champion who currently does not have a full-time ride in the series and has only driven in 6 races so far this season, and Simon Pagenaud, who currently leads this season’s championship standings with 4 races to go driving for Team Penske. Chaves did it in the 2015 season, and Pagenaud did it from the 2011 season into the 2012 season.

This statistic means that at the conclusion of the race last weekend at Mid-Ohio, Pigot joined Pagenaud as the only driver that is currently driving in the Verizon IndyCar Series on a regular basis to have finished each of his first 8 races in a higher position than he started them in. Pigot is in good company to say the least, as again, Pagenaud is leading this season’s championship standings.

Many times you’ll hear from young athletes that they do not want to be compared to some of the greats, as they fear that this will make them feel as though if they do not live up to such high expectations, they will have failed in their career. This was most recently the case with the 2nd overall pick in this year’s NBA draft, Los Angeles Lakers’ small forward Brandon Ingram, when Ingram was not happy that Golden State Warriors’ superstar small forward Kevin Durant said, regarding Ingram, that the “First person I can say, that I can look at him and feel like I’m looking in the mirror.”

In IndyCar, however, I believe that that take on comparisons is much different. Accomplishing something that only this season’s championship standings leader Simon Pagenaud was able to accomplish, while many of the greatest drivers of this generation, such as Scott Dixon, Helio Castroneves, Juan Pablo Montoya, Will Power, and Ryan Hunter-Reay were not able to do so should not make Pigot feel more pressure to do well in the series.

Instead, this statistic should give him great confidence, because he has already had a statistical start to his career that is better that some of the greatest drivers of the sport using this particular measure. It is not all simply speculation as it is for someone like Kevin Durant regarding 18-year-old Brandon Ingram, who has never stepped foot on an NBA court to play in a professional game with other professional players.

-Asher Fair