NEWTON, Iowa – Spencer Pigot put together his strongest Verizon IndyCar Series race to date and scored a career-best runner-up finish in Sunday’s Iowa Corn 300 at Iowa Speedway.
The talented 24-year-old surged forward from the 18th starting position in the No. 21 Ed Carpenter Racing Fuzzy’s Vodka Chevrolet, finding the top five by Lap 81 of 300. The perfect blend of skill and a three-stop pit strategy had him running as high as second with 50 laps left to go.
However, the decision to make his final pit stop earlier than some began to look costly as high tire degradation contributed to Pigot fading to fourth with less than 10 laps to go. His fortunes turned when teammate and team owner Ed Carpenter spun with seven laps to go and made slight contact with Takuma Sato – bringing out a caution flag.
Expecting a final green-flag shootout, Josef Newgarden and Robert Wickens pitted from second and third position, respectively, to take on fresh Firestone tires. Pigot moved up the running order directly behind leader James Hinchcliffe. A lengthy track clean-up and inability to reorder the field per INDYCAR rules prevented the restart from taking place and Pigot collected the first podium in his 33rd career start.
The result brought both gratification and relief for the 2015 Indy Lights presented by Cooper Tires champion.
“It's definitely a great feeling to be on the podium,” Pigot said. “I think that at certain times the past couple seasons we've had the pace to challenge for the podium, and one thing or another happened and it didn't quite work out, so it's nice to have it all go smoothly and we were able to really capitalize on everything that was going on.
“The pit stops were great throughout the race. We had a few close calls (on track), but just close enough to keep going and not have any real issues. It's very satisfying and a nice weight off the shoulders to be up here on the podium and have a really good result.”
The result marked the third straight top-two finish at Iowa for the No. 21 ECR Chevrolet, following Newgarden’s dominant win in 2016 and JR Hildebrand’s second-place finish a year ago. Team owner Carpenter, who was able to continue after the late incident and finished 10th, was pleased with Pigot’s performance.
“I think he’s been doing a great job,” Carpenter said. “He was very smart at Phoenix. Outside of the (pit-lane speeding) penalty at the (Indianapolis) 500, I thought that he was doing a really good job. He’s really smart and detailed with how he drives and his whole approach. So it doesn’t surprise me.
“He’s got a really calm demeanor and I think that serves him well. Hopefully, he’ll have a breakthrough on the road and streets soon because he definitely has the potential. We just got to fully tap into it.”
Pigot, in his third Verizon IndyCar Series season but first with a full-time ride, had a previous best finish of seventh place at Mid-Ohio in 2016. He was also coming off an eighth-place finish two weeks ago at Road America.
As excited as Pigot was for the Iowa result, it paled in comparison to the emotions expressed by his mother, Shelby, after the race.
“Yeah, the first time I saw my mom after I got out of the car, she was screaming and running around, and she didn't even know I was there,” said Pigot, the all-time winningest driver in the Mazda Road to Indy with 24 victories in the three levels. “I was like, ‘Mom, I'm right here!’
“It's a huge family effort. They've been supporting me, my parents, since I started racing when I was 9 years old, and it's always been a family dream and a family goal to be racing Indy cars. This is the first Indy car race my dad hasn't been here for, so he's missing out, but he'll be there in Toronto and looking forward to seeing him. It means a lot to everyone in the family.”