American force: Pigot joins Rahal for 2016 races

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Spencer Pigot’s meteoric rise to the Verizon IndyCar Series is similar to Graham Rahal’s. In 2016, the drivers will form an American lineup at Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing.

Pigot, the 2015 Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires champion, will contest at least three rounds of the Verizon IndyCar Series schedule with the team that this past season recorded its highest finish in the series’ entrant standings since 2004.

The championship of the top rung of the Mazda Road to Indy ladder system came with a $1 million Mazda scholarship, which was applied to the partnership with the team co-owned by Bobby Rahal, David Letterman and Mike Lanigan.

Pigot’s initial schedule includes the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg on March 13, the Angie’s List Grand Prix of Indianapolis on May 14 and the 100th Running of the Indianapolis 500 Mile Race on May 29. Both parties are working to extend the number of races, and sponsorship will be announced at a later date.

"We hope that this isn't limited to just three races," Bobby Rahal said. "Obviously, funding plays a role for anybody, any team. But we've already received some interest. So the goal here is to run Spencer as much as we can in 2016."

Pigot, who turned 22 on Sept. 29, earned the Indy Lights title in the series’ 30th anniversary season by sweeping the final two races of the 16-race season last month at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca. He won a series-high six races.

The past four Indy Lights champions competed in the Verizon IndyCar Series this past season, and other Indy Lights title-holders include Scott Dixon, Tony Kanaan, Bryan Herta, Paul Tracy, JR Hildebrand, Oriol Servia and Townsend Bell.

Graham Rahal made his Indy Lights debut in 2006, earning the pole and finishing second in the Liberty Challenge on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course. Rahal, who is the youngest winner of an Indy car race, earned two victories among six podium finishes in placing a career-high fourth in the Verizon IndyCar Series championship.

“I'm very excited and honored to be starting my career in the Verizon IndyCar Series with Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing,” said Pigot, of Orlando, Fla. “It's always been my goal to be an IndyCar driver and be in the Indianapolis 500. I can't thank everyone at RLL and Andersen Promotions enough for this opportunity.

“I think it's a great place for me to be as a rookie because of all the experience within the team. The team is coming off a great 2015 season and hopefully we can build on that success. The 100th Running of the Indianapolis 500 is going to be a very special moment for me and the highlight of my career so far. It's what I've been working toward ever since I started racing. It's the biggest race in the world and I can't wait to be a part of it.”

Pigot competed two seasons each in the Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda and the Pro Mazda Championship Presented by Cooper Tires, securing the 2014 Pro Mazda title and corresponding Mazda scholarship. Twelve of his podium finishes in 30 Pro Mazda races included seven victories. In 26 USF2000 races, he scored 19 podium finishes, including 11 wins, in 26 races.

Pigot, who began karting at age 9, completed five seasons of Mazda Road to Indy competition.

“The Mazda Road to Indy has been vital for my development as a driver,” Pigot said. “It’s safe to say I wouldn't be going into the Verizon IndyCar Series without the experience and support I gained from each level. Each car teaches you something new and racing at the same tracks as IndyCar throughout my Mazda Road to Indy career will only help my transition. It’s the place to be for anyone trying to make it to IndyCar.”

Pigot drove an IndyCar for the first time in mid-August during a shared team test day with Team Penske at Sonoma Raceway.

“All of us at Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing are very pleased that we were able to work with (Andersen Promotions CEO) Dan Andersen and the IndyCar Series to bring Spencer to our team for these events,” Bobby Rahal said. “I have gotten to know Spencer over the years and have been impressed with his progression through the various series, being champion in Pro Mazda and the Indy Lights series.

“Clearly the Indy Lights platform is a very good one for young drivers trying to reach IndyCar and I am confident that Spencer can shine with our team. At RLL, we have a track record of bringing young drivers into the IndyCar Series like Danica Patrick and giving experienced drivers new opportunities to recapture their past success like Ryan Hunter-Reay and Buddy Rice did with the team.

“We’re looking forward to having Spencer, another young American driver in the series, alongside Graham and are excited about what the future holds.”

Graham Rahal, who participated in an offseason team test last month at Road America, joined Kanaan in turning laps Oct. 20 at Phoenix International Raceway as part of a Firestone tire test.

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