By Brian Eberly, Contributing Writer
NEWTON, Iowa— Heading into Sunday afternoon’s Verizon IndyCar Series Iowa Corn 300 at Iowa Speedway, Spencer Pigot had just five top-10 results in 32 starts, with his best career finish a seventh-place showing at Mid-Ohio in 2016.
An unexpected lack of rear grip cost Pigot a lot in qualifying and his No. 21 machine lined up back in the 18th position on the 22-car starting grid. But after a solid 300 laps at the 7/8-mile oval, he had earned his first podium result, crossing the stripe in the second position behind race-winner James Hinchcliffe. It was Ed Carpenter Racing’s third consecutive podium at Iowa.
“Right from the get-go, I knew that we had a fast car the way we were able to pass some people through the beginning of the race,” said Pigot, who moved up 16 positions in the Fuzzy’s Vodka Chevrolet. “Then as the (race) went on, I just thought we got kind of stronger and stronger and were really able to close down and pass people.
“We’ve had a season that I think we could have executed a little bit better at times, but today everything went right and we found ourselves on the podium. It’s definitely a great feeling.”
With a long green flag run to start the 300-lap event, Pigot drove all the way up to the third spot by Lap 125 and had maintained his position when the first yellow of the race came out on Lap 139 after Zach Veach made light contact with the Turn 4 wall. Once they went back to green, Pigot made quick work of Hinchcliffe to take the second position, where he would stay through the finish.
Pigot competed in the 11 road/street events in 2017 with Ed Carpenter Racing before being promoted to their full-time driver of the No. 21 Chevrolet for 2018.
“I think that at certain times the past couple seasons we’ve had the pace to challenge for the podium, and one thing or another happened and it didn’t quite work out, so it’s nice to have it all go smoothly and we were able to really capitalize on everything that was going on. So it’s very satisfying, and yeah, a nice weight off the shoulders to be up here on the podium and have a really good result.”
Team-owner Ed Carpenter finished tenth in the team’s second entry.
“Spencer’s run is good for the whole team. We all work really tight together as a unit,” Carpenter said. “It is, however, getting a little annoying that my teammates keep getting the better of me here. (Laughs). Both cars in the top-10 is a good thing on a day like today when you see a lot of teams struggling. The Penske cars kind of all over the place. Dixon struggled, Hunter-Reay, Rossi – guys who have been good here. It was a wild race. Very challenging. But we will take it.”
Pigot is the winningest driver to compete in the Mazda Road to Indy, earning 24 victories across Indy Lights, Pro Mazda and USF2000 competition. The Florida native captured the 2014 Pro Mazda championship and 2015 Indy Lights title with Juncos Racing before making his first IndyCar Series start in 2016 at St. Petersburg.
“In the car I was pretty pumped up and on the radio to the guys,” Pigot said.
“I was really happy to see everyone when I came back into pit lane, everyone that’s worked so hard for me and for this team to see all the smiles on their faces and they deserve this podium just as much as anyone else.
“Just really happy for the team at Ed Carpenter Racing, and yeah, I mean, I’m excited, trust me. I’m happy.But hopefully one of these days we’ll be one step higher up.”