Notes: Pigot makes quiet waves with seventh at Mid-Ohio

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Spencer Pigot has a month to savor his quietly impressive performance when he finished a career-best seventh July 31 in The Honda Indy 200 at Mid-Ohio.

Because the Verizon IndyCar Series rookie is driving only on road and street courses for Ed Carpenter Racing, Pigot won’t see action again until the INDYCAR Grand Prix at The Glen weekend Sept. 2-4 at Watkins Glen International. In the meantime, the 22-year-old from Orlando should have plenty to smile about.

“I was happy with the amount of cars we were able to jump on strategy and pass on track,” Pigot said. “We moved up to seventh, so I was happy with that.”

Starting 19th in the No. 20 Fuzzy’s Vodka Chevrolet, Pigot was among the first to go off strategy and pit early in the 90-lap race at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course – stopping on Lap 11. When a full-course caution came out four laps later for the collision between Helio Castroneves and Scott Dixon, most of the 22-car field opted to pit under the yellow. Pigot stayed on track and was rewarded by moving into the top 10 – where he remained most of the race.

He ran as high as fifth and was comfortably stationed in 10th place for the final restart on Lap 66. James Hinchcliffe passed Pigot on Lap 70, but the rookie made up for it by overtaking veterans Tony Kanaan and Ryan Hunter-Reay in a four-lap stretch.

It appeared Pigot would equal his previous best finish of ninth (at Road America in June) until veterans Sebastien Bourdais and Takuma Sato made contact in front of him five laps from the finish. Pigot picked up those spots to come home seventh on the demanding 2.258-mile permanent road course.

Now the newcomer waits in the wings as team owner/driver Ed Carpenter takes the wheel in the No. 20 Chevy for the final two ovals on the schedule – the ABC Supply 500 at Pocono Raceway on Aug. 21 and completion of the Firestone 600 at Texas Motor Speedway on Aug. 27.

“I think we can keep moving forward,” Pigot said. “If we can qualify a bit better on Saturday, we won’t have to try and save as much fuel and do these alternate strategies. (At Mid-Ohio,) it worked out, but hopefully in Watkins Glen we can start by qualifying a bit higher up.”

Meanwhile at Mid-Ohio, Pigot’s teammate Josef Newgarden experienced the most adventurous of days and still managed a 10th-place finish.

Starting third in the No. 21 Fuzzy’s Ultra Premium Vodka/ECR Chevy, Newgarden stayed there until pitting under yellow with the front-runners on Lap 17, returning in 14th place. Newgarden passed Will Power for position on the Lap 20 restart, but the two made contact a lap later, damaging Newgarden’s rear wheel guard.

“It’s tough having two races in a row where we have our rear bumper taken off,” Newgarden said. “It’s no fault of our own but it ruins our race. It happened in Toronto and now here. I think it’s probably a question for INDYCAR of how that’s going to be handled. It’s really hard for us to recover after those incidents.”

The Nashville native was forced to make an unscheduled stop for a new rear wing assembly on Lap 21 and slipped to 20th position. Running 18th when the final round of stops occurred on Lap 62, Newgarden was hit again – this time as he was entering his pit by Mikhail Aleshin, who was exiting his own pit.

Fortunately, no significant damage occurred this time. Newgarden restarted 17th but picked off seven cars in the final 25 laps to secure his eighth top-10 finish of the season and overtake Scott Dixon for fourth in the championship after 12 completed races.

“It was tough day,” Newgarden admitted. “I feel bad for my guys because I think we had a good car. (Race winner Simon) Pagenaud and (second-place) Power would have been tough (to beat), but I think we were a podium car, for sure, which would have been really good points for us.

“We tried to do some damage control and got a top 10 out of it. We’ll take that and move on to try and win the next one.”

Chevrolet holds 91-point lead in manufacturers’ battle

The Verizon IndyCar Series manufacturers’ championship remains up for grabs with four races still to be completed in the 16-race season.

Chevrolet holds a 91-point lead over Honda (1,255 to 1,164) heading to the ABC Supply 500 at Pocono Raceway on Aug. 21. Chevrolet has won the four manufacturers’ championships since engine competition was reintroduced to the Verizon IndyCar Series in 2012. Chevrolet and Honda have also developed aerodynamic bodywork kits for their respective teams since 2015.

At the most recent race on July 31, The Honda Indy 200 at Mid-Ohio, Chevrolet earned 117 points – led by race winner Simon Pagenaud of Team Penske – but also faced a 20-point deduction when it had to change the failed engine on the No. 8 Chip Ganassi Racing Teams entry of Max Chilton.

Honda, whose top race finisher was Carlos Munoz in third place, earned 99 points from race competition plus 30 bonus points for seeing the engines on three of its cars successfully reach their 2,500-mile threshold. Cars that had engines “mileage out” over the race weekend and receive the 10-point bonus were: No. 15 Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing (Graham Rahal), No. 26 Andretti Autosport (Carlos Munoz) and No. 41 AJ Foyt Racing (Jack Hawksworth).

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