Spencer Pigot

GoPro Grand Prix of Sonoma tickets || Verizon IndyCar Series standings || Indy Lights standings

What impressed Spencer Pigot about the No. 1 Verizon Team Penske car? Everything is the concise answer.

Pigot, 21, was among seven Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires competitors to drive Verizon IndyCar Series cars Aug. 13 during a shared test day with Verizon IndyCar Series drivers on the 2.38-mile, 12-turn Sonoma Raceway road course.

Per the Verizon IndyCar Series rulebook, teams are allowed two additional on-track days to test a current Indy Lights driver. It’s a valuable opportunity for the young drivers short and long term.

With the Verizon IndyCar Series championship to be determined in the season finale -- Aug. 30 at Sonoma Raceway – for the 10th consecutive season, six of the 10 drivers eligible in the tight title chase also utilized the valuable on-track opportunity.

Verizon IndyCar Series teams and drivers testing, with Indy Lights drivers in parentheses:

• Andretti Autosport – Marco Andretti (Matthew Brabham)
• Chip Ganassi Racing Teams – Scott Dixon (Sean Rayhall)
• KVSH Racing – Sebastien Bourdais (Ryan Phinny)
• Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing – Graham Rahal (Ed Jones)
• Schmidt Peterson Motorsports – Ryan Briscoe (Jack Harvey)
• Team Penske – Juan Pablo Montoya, Will Power (Nelson Piquet Jr., Pigot)

Pigot, who has won a series-high four races this season for Juncos Racing, is six points behind Harvey in the standings with two races left.

“After a few laps I was able to start pushing more and more. I was able to get comfortable fairly quickly,” Pigot said. “We went through a lot of video and data beforehand, and I talked to Will a lot. Team Penske has helped me a lot to get up to speed quickly.

“This car carries so much speed through the corners and carries so much downforce. It’s a new experience and a lot of fun.”

Harvey, who turned about 55 laps in the Schmidt Peterson Motorsports Honda set up by Briscoe, agreed.

“I loved every minute of it,” he said. “In Indy lights last year I won both races (at Sonoma), so I was really excited when I knew this track was going to be my first test. I’m pretty happy with what we’ve achieved.

“This car is so much bigger, so much more power. I mean at the end of the day it’s still a race car, but the power and the weight of the car and the size of it were the things I noticed straight away.”

The Verizon IndyCar Series championship will be decided on the Sonoma Raceway road course and the GoPro Grand Prix of Sonoma carries double points. Montoya enters the penultimate race of the season Aug. 23 – the ABC Supply 500 at Pocono Raceway – with a nine-point over the surging Rahal.

“Double points will definitely be interesting here with the hairpins and different strategies; you definitely won’t know until the end who’s going to win the championship,” said Dixon (below), a two-time Sonoma winner who is third in the standings.

Also on the race course was Mikhail Aleshin, who was participating in a refresher test in a Schmidt Peterson Motorsports Honda. The Russian, who sustained injuries in an August 2014 practice crash at Auto Club Speedway, is scheduled to make his return to the Verizon IndyCar Series at Sonoma Raceway.

“I feel like I’m home,” he said. “It’s a great team and a very nice car. The difference is very big compared to last year. There’s more downforce now so it’s not very easy, but I have some experience handling it, so I am enjoying it.”

Scott Dixon