Pigot relishes chance to fill in for Hildebrand at Texas test

Updated: 

FORT WORTH, Texas – Spencer Pigot finally made his return to an oval and couldn’t have been happier.

Filling in for the injured JR Hildebrand, who sustained a broken bone in his left hand in a crash on the final lap of the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach on Sunday, Pigot took the reins of the No. 21 Ed Carpenter Racing Chevrolet for Wednesday’s open test at Texas Motor Speedway.

The 23-year-old Floridian spent most of his Verizon IndyCar Series rookie season last year with ECR, running only on road and street courses. Pigot started the 2016 season with Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing for three races, including the 100th Running of the Indianapolis 500 presented by PennGrade Motor Oil, where he made what to date is his lone oval start.

Fresh off his eighth-place finish on the streets of in Long Beach in ECR’s No. 20 Chevy, Pigot took advice on the TMS oval from team owner Ed Carpenter, who drives the No. 20 on the ovals again this season.

“He’s doing good and been really smart about it,” said Carpenter, the 2014 winner at Texas. “It was a unique situation with JR’s injury in Long Beach. We didn’t necessarily have to bring both cars here, but we had to plan to come here and felt like it was beneficial to bring both cars here with our test plan. Part of that is to just get Spencer some different type of experience.”

Carpenter alluded to how former ECR driver Josef Newgarden’s injury last season, sustained in a crash at Texas, worked as a positive for the team when Hildebrand took over for several test sessions as Newgarden recuperated.

“You never know what could happen with injuries or otherwise,” Carpenter said. “We went through this last year with Josef and that’s how we got more comfortable and a better look at JR.

“So it was a good opportunity to get Spencer to run some more laps on an oval. His only experience last year was at Indy, but he’s done a good job today.”

Pigot, the 2015 Indy Lights presented by Cooper Tires champion, embraced the opportunity and took to the Fort Worth-based track.

“Yeah, I like it,” he said. “It’s a lot of fun. Obviously, it’s very fast. It’s cool to be going these speeds again. I haven’t done it since the Indy 500 (last year), so it’s nice to be back on an oval.

“Ed’s talked to me a lot. We went around (the track) in the rental car this morning to talk about the line. Obviously, it was kind of an unknown for everyone leading into the day with the repave and reconfiguration in Turns 1 and 2, but I’ve definitely been keeping close contact with Ed (for advice) throughout the day.”

The stars of the Verizon IndyCar Series will return to Texas Motor Speedway for the Rainguard Water Sealers on June 10 (8 p.m., NBCSN and Advance Auto Parts INDYCAR Radio Network). Next up on the schedule, though, is the Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama on the 2.3-mile road course at Barber Motorsports Park. The race airs live at 3 p.m. ET April 23 on NBCSN and the Advance Auto Parts INDYCAR Radio Network.

From the fans