"When do we get to race Indy cars?" a member of the Indy Eleven yelled as he played soccer on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway during the inaugural "Battle on the Bricks."
The event, a friendly scrimmage Tuesday on IMS' iconic frontstretch, was held as a kickoff event for the North American Soccer League's championship coming to Indianapolis. The Indy Eleven host its first-ever postseason match — an NASL championship semifinal vs. FC Edmonton at Michael Carroll Stadium in downtown Indianapolis on Saturday.
Verizon IndyCar Series and Indy Lights presented by Cooper Tires drivers Spencer Pigot, Stefan Wilson, Zach Veach and Dalton Kellett took to "the pitch" to face Indy Eleven players Wojciech Wojcik, Neil Shaffer and Jair Reinoso along with team mascot Zeke on the famous yard of bricks for a 10-minute contest.
“What’s so cool about Indianapolis in general is there’s always something going on, especially here at the speedway,” said Pigot, the 2015 Indy Lights champion who raced 10 times for Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing and Ed Carpenter Racing in the 2016 Verizon IndyCar Series. “I was happy to be part of today’s event with Indy Eleven. I’m a big soccer fan. To be able to come out and play a game and enjoy some time with fellow drivers and meet some of the players is a lot of fun.”
Pigot, who led Team INDYCAR with several goals, was surprised the driver team kept the match competitive.
“We scored a few more goals than we thought we would,” he said. “We had a bit of an advantage with the mascot Zeke playing goal (for Team Eleven), but it was a lot of fun and great to see the skill of the pros and the way they can move the ball around.”
Wilson got the scoring going for the match with a chip from deep inside the INDYCAR goal area that crossed underneath the crossbar and just out of reach of Zeke that drew cheers from the Indy Eleven players and staff watching from the pit lane.
“It’s unusual to be at the speedway and doing something other than racing,” Wilson said. “I’m not sure if the goal was planned but I’ll take it. Today was fun to support the Indy Eleven as they go for a championship, but I’m looking forward to getting back here with four wheels and a motor.”
In the end, the final result showed the professional soccer players with more goals. Both teams came away feeling like they had won and the Eleven players were asking about visiting the drivers at the track next May.
“I think (the drivers) did outstanding,” said Indy Eleven coach Tim Hankinson, who was making his first visit to Indianapolis Motor Speedway. “They played with great passion and enthusiasm. Most important thing, though, was to see the Indy Eleven and the INDYCAR drivers enjoying some competition together for a good cause is an exciting moment.
“A sports town becomes stronger if all the teams are rooting for each other. It’s great to have each other's back and bring as many trophies as we can to this great city."