The promising potential that Ed Carpenter has always seen in Spencer Pigot started to show more toward the end of last season.
Pigot concluded his first full-time NTT IndyCar Series season for Ed Carpenter Racing with four finishes in the top eight in the last eight races, including his first career podium with a second at Iowa.
The 25-year-old Floridian finished 14th in the points and displayed enough pace that Carpenter wanted to bring Pigot back. But the boss and Pigot are of like mind entering the 2019 season. They want race wins. And Carpenter has always reiterated the goal of having a car in the series title chase.
ECR hasn’t celebrated a victory since Josef Newgarden triumphed at Iowa in 2016. That’s also the last and only time the team has had a championship contender as Newgarden finished fourth. Newgarden then departed for Team Penske, for whom he won a series championship in 2017.
After driving Carpenter’s No. 20 Chevrolet on road and street courses for two seasons, Pigot finally got his full-time shot in the No. 21 last season. His 14th-place finish was actually the second-best points standing since ECR started in 2012.
He’s grateful to have another opportunity to drive for a boss who believes in him.
“It’s been great to be with Ed,” Pigot said. “He’s definitely seen potential in me throughout the years and he’s kind of stuck with it. It’s nice to have that reassurance and that belief from the team owner and the boss that they think you’re the guy who can do the job. It’s been great.
“I think it was probably the best move I’ve made, joining Ed Carpenter Racing. Hopefully we can really have some success.”
When ECR made the September announcement that Pigot would return, Carpenter said, “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.”
That he did. In addition to Iowa, he was fourth at Portland, sixth at Gateway and eighth at Road America. Pigot also points to his qualifying effort for the Indianapolis 500 as a breakthrough moment. He was one of three ECR cars in the Fast Nine Shootout, when he started sixth and finished 20th.
“When you have a car that competitive and you’re able to kind of put it up on the point end of the grid, definitely winning the race becomes more realistic,” Pigot said. “It definitely makes you think about when you wake up that morning, ‘Is this the day you’re going to win the race?’
“It’s a lot more fun when you’re qualifying up there compared to the previous two times I did the race, where we were struggling quite a bit with different things. It’s a different experience when you have a team and a car that’s capable of being at the front. As optimistic as we are as drivers, you think anything can happen.”
Pigot had previously qualified 29th twice for the Indy 500 while driving for Juncos Racing in 2016 and Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing in 2017.
Carpenter, a three-time NTT IndyCar Series race winner, came so close to ending that ECR victory drought as he won his third Indy 500 pole and finished a career-best second in the 2018 race. His last victory came at Texas in 2014. The team’s other two career victories were with Mike Conway at Long Beach and Toronto in 2014.
Pigot had five top-10 finishes in 2018, the same number of top-10 results he had in 22 previous starts. Always humble and understated, Pigot acknowledges the experiences in recent years have prepared him to take the next step.
“I’m no longer new,” he said.
One of the best aspects of his rise through the Road to Indy developmental ladder, which included Indy Pro 2000 (formerly Pro Mazda) and Indy Lights championships, is that he’s been able to share the ride with his father, Barry, a former racer.
“My dad used to race Formula Fords back in the U.K., raced against Conor’s dad Derek (Daly), raced against (Formula 1 and CART champion) Nigel Mansell,” Pigot said. “He’s got lots of cool stories from back then. Ever since I could remember, it’s been his passion. He was in the industry a little bit and I got in through him.
“Since then, I think he’s enjoyed it almost as much as I have. We’ve been on this journey together to make it to INDYCAR.”
Ed Jones will drive the team’s No. 20 Chevrolet alongside Pigot at the races on road and street courses, beginning with the season-opening Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg. Live coverage of the race airs on NBCSN (12:30 p.m. ET) and the Advance Auto Parts INDYCAR Radio Network (1 p.m.).