Manufacturer testing provides Pigot crucial seat time

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FORT WORTH, Texas – They say good things come to those who wait, and that couldn’t be more true for Spencer Pigot.

The winningest driver in the Mazda Road to Indy – INDYCAR’s three-tiered developmental ladder system – was put in a “hurry up and wait” situation when he arrived to the Verizon IndyCar Series in 2016. A part-time role that saw a concentrated effort on road and street courses, along with a pair oval starts in the Indianapolis 500, the 24-year-old Floridian finally got the nod in September for a full-time drive with Ed Carpenter Racing for the 2018 season. It’s the same team he has driven for in all but four of his 22 career starts.

Along with that opportunity came the chance to be one of the two Chevrolet test teams for manufacturer testing this fall of the universal aero kit set to debut next season for all competitors. Pigot has had the valuable experience to test the new kit on road courses at Sebring International Raceway and Road America, while sharing time in the car with team owner Ed Carpenter on oval tests at Phoenix Raceway and this week at Texas Motor Speedway.

“It’s been great,” said Pigot, the 2015 Indy Lights presented by Cooper Tires champion. “It’s something that I’ve never really been a part of before, developing somewhat of a new car with a team. On the road-course side of things, it’s been all my feedback and hopefully that’s a good thing. Hopefully, it’s not a bad thing when we get to the first race.

“It’s just been a cool experience for me to step up into a full-season role, but also step up in a development way as well. Obviously, it’s nice to be here on the ovals and have Ed driving the car a lot. He obviously has a ton of experience and is someone I can ask a question to and relate to a lot more than when we’ve been doing our road-course testing so far.

“So it’s really cool to have that and, yeah, just excited to go oval racing again. It’s been a while since I’ve consistently driven on ovals and I think it’ll only help that I’ll be in the car throughout the whole season, rather than here and there.”

Josef Newgarden, who won the 2017 Verizon IndyCar Series championship with Team Penske, drove the other Chevrolet car at Wednesday’s Texas test. A former ECR driver himself, Newgarden sees the value in Pigot getting as much time behind the wheel as possible.

“I think we all want more testing, selfishly, as drivers,” Newgarden said. “For someone like Spencer, Ed is really doing it the right way. Ed has pretty much had Spencer in the car every test, so he’s probably getting the most testing out of anybody this offseason, but that’s a good thing.

“He needs more in his development stage. He’s going into his young years still. He’s not a veteran of the sport, so giving him more time is important.”

Newgarden favors changes to INDYCAR rules giving younger, more inexperienced drivers additional track time. He remembers well the growing pains he endured as a rookie in 2012, the lone driver on a one-car team with Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing when he had no top-10 finishes and finished 23rd in the standings.

“We’ve talked about tires and how many tires we give to rookies or not throughout a season and that might change, but yeah, I’m definitely in favor of figuring out a way to give rookies more testing,” Newgarden said. “Selfishly, as a driver, I’d like more testing. I think we all would, but rookies, that’s really what will favor them is getting more seat time.

“You can’t substitute race weekend testing. When you’re at a race with everyone there and then you run an actual race weekend, you can’t really substitute that, but just more time inside the car. Especially for someone that doesn’t really know ovals really well, someone like Spencer, it’s a big difference.

“I think figuring out a way to keep evolving that and getting these guys more time, it’s a good thing. I’m in favor of that.”

The 2018 Verizon IndyCar Series season consists of 17 races and begins with the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg on March 11. Check out the entire schedule here.

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