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Spencer Pigot’s road to returning to the NTT INDYCAR SERIES begins at a familiar place with a familiar team.
Florida resident Pigot, 26, will make his first start of the 2020 season Saturday, July 4 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, driving the No. 45 Honda for RLL with Citrone/Buhl Autosport in the GMR Grand Prix at the IMS road course (Noon, NBC).
He will be reunited with team owner Bobby Rahal, who gave 2015 Indy Lights champion Pigot his NTT INDYCAR SERIES start with three races in 2016. Those included the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg, the GMR Grand Prix and the 100th Indianapolis 500 presented by Gainbridge.
From that point forward, Pigot shared the No. 20 Chevrolet with owner/driver Ed Carpenter in 2016 and 2017, appearing in the street and road course races on the schedule. He was elevated to full-time status in 2018 and 2019 and showed some impressive progress behind the wheel of the No. 21 ECR Chevrolet.
The combination concluded after last season, and Pigot’s path took him back to the team where his journey began.
“It’s a great opportunity for me to be back with Rahal, where I made my INDYCAR and Indy 500 debut back in 2016,” Pigot said. “It’s nice to be back to a team that has some familiar faces. A lot of the same people are that were there in 2016. It’s not like joining a brand-new team. It’s going back home and hopefully having a good couple of races.”
Citrone/Buhl Autosport will partner with Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing as a third entry at both races at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in 2020. Team co-owner Rob Citrone is a minority-share owner of the Pittsburgh Steelers, and fellow co-owner Robbie Buhl is a former INDYCAR race winner as a driver.
“It came together earlier this year,” Pigot said. “Rahal Letterman Lanigan and Rob and Robbie from Citrone/Buhl had set up a partnership to run a car at the Speedway this year. Robbie has a big history at the track in an Indy car. Rob Citrone has been an INDYCAR fan, and his son Nick are a big sports family and big INDYCAR fans. They wanted to be involved, and I was approached to be part of it.”
Buhl is the 1992 Indy Lights champion and went on to compete in CART and INDYCAR from 1993 to 2004. Buhl won two NTT INDYCAR SERIES races in 78 starts.
Buhl was also part of Dennis Reinbold’s INDYCAR program at Dreyer & Reinbold Racing, both as a driver and later as a team principal. He spent time as an INDYCAR television analyst for Versus and later NBCSN.
In 2016, Buhl and his brother Tom started a marketing firm known as Buhl Sports Detroit. By joining forces with Citrone, Buhl is ready to return to the INDYCAR paddock with Pigot as his star client.
With two former Indy Lights champions joining with Rahal, a three-time CART champion and winner of the 1986 Indianapolis 500, Pigot and Buhl are hopeful the two races at the Speedway are just the beginning.
“That is the plan,” Pigot said. “I would like to get back to INDYCAR racing full time. I’m with a great group of people that together we can make that happen. The first step is to hit the ground running and have a good few races here at Indy. That’s the goal for me, to be back full time, and I would love to do that with RLL with Citrone/Buhl Autosport.”
When INDYCAR teams add additional entries to the lineup at IMS, they often use the GMR Grand Prix as a chance to prepare for the Indianapolis 500 two weeks later in May. But this year’s schedule is dramatically different because of COVID-19.
The GMR Grand Prix was moved from May 9 to July 4 because of the pandemic. It is now part of an INDYCAR/NASCAR tripleheader that includes the NASCAR Xfinity Series Pennzoil 150 on Saturday, July 4 and the NASCAR Cup Series Big Machine Hand Sanitizer 400 Powered by Big Machine Records on Sunday, July 5.
The 104th Indianapolis 500 presented by Gainbridge has been moved from May 24 and is scheduled for Sunday, Aug. 23.
“We will use the GMR GP to be competitive and run up front, to get to know each other, and for the crew to get comfortable with the pit stops again,” Pigot said. “The whole crew for the 45 car has been in the Rahal shop every day, so it’s not like everyone is going to be flying in for one weekend. It’s all hands on deck, working on the car, working at the shop. That should be a pretty seamless transition, hopefully, to the track.
“Instead of hopping in the for the oval a couple of days after the GP, it will be a month later. But the fundamentals of the weekend stay the same, and it will give us more time to analyze and see where we can improve.”