It was the breakthrough race that people have been expecting out of Spencer Pigot for a couple years. And it was the result he needed to renew Ed Carpenter’s confidence in him.
The 24-year-old Floridian finished second in Sunday’s Iowa Corn 300, but his drive to the front was even more impressive than the first podium of his young career.
He started 18th, stormed into the top 10 by Lap 50 and staged great duels with eventual winner James Hinchcliffe, third-place Takuma Sato and pole-sitter Will Power during the afternoon.
Pigot was likely going to finish fourth before Carpenter brought out a yellow with six to go and Josef Newgarden and Robert Wickens came in to pit, elevating him to second. But if anyone deserved a good result it was the former Indy Lights and Pro Mazda champion.
“Right from the get-go I knew we had a fast car the way we were getting through traffic and as the stints went on we just seemed to get strong and stronger,” said Pigot, whose previous best finish was seventh at Mid-Ohio in 2016 as a rookie.
“Before I knew we were right up towards the front, which was great.”
After being a road racer only for ECR, Carpenter gave Pigot the nod to run the full 2018 season in the No. 21 Fuzzy’s Vodka Chevy. He’s been quick in practice, but only had one top-10 start at the Indy GP before qualifying sixth at Indianapolis.
This weekend started like so many others. He was in or around the top five in the only practice period before Saturday qualifying but then lost the handle and wound up in Row 9.
But whatever engineer Matt Barnes did prior to and during the race was magic.
“We made a few changes from qualifying yesterday,” Pigot explained. “Obviously that was a little disappointing, but we kept our heads down, and the guys in pit lane did a great job and executed really well.”
After several near-podiums, Pigot felt relief with his first top-three in IndyCar.
“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,” he said. “The pit stops were great throughout the race. We had a few close calls, but just close enough to keep going and not have any real issues.
“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.”