Pigot’s Indy Lights crown fulfills Mazda Road to Indy in total
A six-pack of race wins and a four-pack of Mazda scholarships.
That’s the easiest way to describe Spencer Pigot’s 2015 Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires season in a nutshell, en route to the championship and the $1 million Mazda scholarship for three 2016 Verizon IndyCar Series races, including the chance to qualify for the 100th Indianapolis 500.
Pigot has emerged as the poster child of the Mazda Road to Indy, which has seen a wealth of its graduates move into IndyCar over the years.
It’s crazy that at 22, Pigot is something of an old soul, but the Orlando native been around the block a few times.
He won back-to-back Mazda scholarships in 2009 and 2010, and by 2011 he was firmly on the Mazda Road to Indy, in his first season in USF2000.
But after those first two scholarships, Pigot came up just short of USF2000 titles in 2011 and 2012, then endured a challenging first season in Pro Mazda in 2013.
He stood at the precipice of his open-wheel career possibly fading away going into the Pro Mazda title tilt in 2014 with Scott Hargrove, likely needing another one to advance. But win it he did, and he emerged as champion to move into Indy Lights this season.
And come Mazda Raceway two weeks ago, there was only one suitable outcome once again.
“Going into the weekend we knew there was only thing we’d be happy with,” Pigot told MotorSportsTalk after Monterey.
“It was really good to have (Juncos Racing teammate Kyle Kaiser) there. We didn’t get complacent. Kept us at the front for the whole weekend. I didn’t get pole, but tried to keep my nose clean. Luckily I came out unscathed.
“Max (Chilton) made it fairly easy for me. I was able to slip by. When I got in the lead, and hit my marks, that was the trick. It’s a difficult place to pass.”
Pigot banked both wins during the weekend at Mazda Raceway in order to secure his crown.
The first came, as noted, following Chilton’s slip up in Saturday’s first race of the weekend.
The second on Sunday came after surviving a crazy, three-wide start up the hill and then controlling the race through to the checkered flag.
Pigot was understandably emotional when he embraced his family and his Juncos Racing team when he got out of the car, told he’s moving up into IndyCar next year.
“It sounds pretty good to me! Yeah I still can’t believe it,” Pigot told Rob Howden, the voice of the Mazda Road to Indy.
“What a program with this Mazda Road to Indy. I’ve been so fortunate to be able to take advantage of it. It takes me to my ultimate dream, which is the Indianapolis 500. All my family, all my supporters… I can’t thank everyone enough.”
Pigot also reflected on his long-term relationship with team owner Ricardo Juncos. The two started together in karting and Pigot has now delivered Juncos back-to-back titles in the two top rungs of the ladder.
“It’s incredible. If you’d have told me 10 years ago this could happen, I’d have said you were absolutely crazy,” Pigot said. “But here we are. Pro Mazda champs. Indy Lights champs. Every year I drive for them I’ve won a championship in something. I don’t know what it will be like in the future.”
Throughout the month leading up to Mazda Raceway, Pigot maintained the same focus as he had all season, even as he knew he had to overtake Jack Harvey (Schmidt Peterson Motorsports) and fend off Ed Jones (Carlin) for the title.
“Coming into this weekend was same as every weekend. We want to win every weekend,” said Pigot, who banked his fifth and sixth wins of the season there, which eclipsed Newgarden by one over a season.
“Sometimes it doesn’t go as planned. But we came here knowing we’d be quick. We were quick right away. We always kept pushing, fine tuning the car. Came away with a couple wins. Maybe not outright quickest guy in qualifying but we used our heads in the race.”
Pigot also thanked both Harvey and Jones for racing clean in the finale.
“Before I was even in third gear, Harvey was outside me. It was pretty hairy,” Pigot said.
“I was waiting for smoke, waiting to look towards the sky or something and the wheels to tangle. We fought hard and aggressive but it was clean. It was aggressive on Jack’s part but it was very clean on the run down to 1.
“It was good to see. He could have easily made other choices and made it a very different day. Kudos to him and to those guys, they had a great season. Really enjoyed racing against all of them. I learned a lot from racing against them, and I hope it helps me next year.”
Pigot now has to figure out what team he’ll move up to IndyCar with, as Juncos doesn’t have an IndyCar program.
But he’ll be eternally thankful for all who have helped get him in this position. Besides the above mentions of family, Juncos and Mazda, other sponsors like Art Wilmes’ Rising Star Racing have made key investments in the talented young driver.
“Rising Star Racing has been a huge part for the last few years,” Pigot said. “They work so hard for me, Neil (Alberico) and Josef (Newgarden) to further our careers. Now they have the big job again to help me move into IndyCar. I’m so fortunate for so many others who’ve been behind me.
“The past few offseasons have been, obviously always stressful, but this one will be less. But thanks to this program, the Mazda Road to Indy, we have another scholarship to figure out what we want to do with.
“The best problem to have in the world is what you want to do with the next Mazda scholarship. Can’t wait and looking forward to the offseason.”