Ed Carpenter Racing’s Spencer Pigot was left staring up the front straight moments after the start of the Portland Grand Prix.
As one of the many drivers affected by the Royal Rumble at Turn 1, the 2015 Indy Lights champion assessed his backwards situation, noticed his Chevy engine was still running, engaged first gear, and promptly spun the No. 21 around to rejoin the pack at the back of the field.
Having fallen from his 10th-place starting spot to 17th as the race returned to green, the California-born 25-year-old spent the rest of the sunny afternoon in Oregon moving forward. Decisive passes, slashing moves under braking, and a perfect balance of aggression and intelligence produced a drive that had ECR’s top driver up to 10th by Lap 20. By Lap 30, he’d captured sixth, and spent the remainder of the race fighting to take fifth from Team Penske’s championship leader Josef Newgarden while keeping Penske’s Simon Pagenaud — another innocent Lap 1 victim — at bay in seventh.
Sandwiched between the Penske duo, Pigot’s impressive drive was amplified by the damage suffered on Lap 1 that misaligned the No. 21 Chevy’s steering system. Forced to wrangle a car that wanted to turn on its own all day, the Road to Indy graduate was tired but pleased to salvage a solid result for the Carpenter crew.
“It was a tough race, obviously; I didn’t really think we had much of a chance after how hard we were hit in the first corner,” he told RACER. “I don’t honestly know really what happened, but just kind of got hit from behind. We stopped and ended up, I think, last on the lead lap after all that. Just had to go and pass as many people as we could. Didn’t really get any yellows or anything to help catch up to the field or anything. Just went out had to get it done on the track. It was for sure a fun race, you know?
“I had a lot of fun battling and passing people, but recovering the sixth leaves you thinking what could have been if that first lap didn’t happen. Overall, happy with our performance in the race. We battled back from a tough start to the weekend in practice. I think the ECR team showed with our usual great pit stops, really good strategy, and, ultimately, even with a damaged car, we had good pace despite the steering being off.”
Although ECR has yet to name its drivers for 2020, it’s believed Pigot will be retained for his third full-time season with the team. It wasn’t a win, nor was it a podium finish, but with a gritty performance amid adversity like Sunday’s run in Portland, the young IndyCar veteran continues to give ECR a reason to show faith in his future potential.
“It’s definitely a good feeling to have a strong race, especially after the last couple, where I thought we had good runs going and just didn’t end up that well,” he said. “On paper, sixth isn’t too much to write home about, but coming from where we did, I think it says a bit more about our performance as a team, and I’m just happy to have a strong race and battle with the guys that I know we can fight with.”