The Way It’s Supposed To Work

Last week, I wrote about how the Mazda Road to Indy (MRTI) has added some much needed clarity to the official ladder or feeder series to the Verizon IndyCar Series. Earlier this week, we learned of a clear example of the system and how it should work.

For those that do not closely follow the MRTI, Spencer Pigot is an American driver who just won the 2015 Indy Lights title last month at Leguna Seca. He is a bright and personable twenty-two year-old who has followed the MRTI to perfection and it has now paid off.

Like so many of today’s open-wheel drivers, Spencer Pigot started his career at a young age in karting. He raced in the 2010 Skip Barber Championship and won the title along with a Mazdaspeed scholarship. In 2011, Pigot signed with Andretti Autosport’s US F2000 team. He won three races that season along with five additional podiums on his way to a second-place finish in the championship. He switched to cape Motorsports with Wayne Taylor Racing for 2012. Pigot again finished second, but this time by only seven points to champion Matthew Brabham.

Pigot followed the natural progression of the MRTI and moved up to Pro Mazda in 2013 with Team Pelfrey. Pigot won the race at Mosport along with four podiums on his way to finishing fourth in the championship. For 2014, Pigot made the move to Juncos Racing and had a dream season. Pigot won the first four races of the season and six altogether, as he took the 2014 Pro Mazda championship.

This past season, Spencer Pigot moved up to Indy Lights with Juncos Racing. He won six races, along with four additional podium finishes to take the Indy Lights crown and the $1 Million Mazda scholarship to be applied to a Verizon IndyCar Series ride for 2016.

A million dollars doesn’t go very far these days, but Pigot has parlayed his skills and his scholarship into a part-time ride with Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing for 2016. He has signed for at least three races alongside Graham Rahal, beginning at what is probably the season-opener at the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg. He is also guaranteed a ride at the Angie’s List Grand Prix of Indianapolis, but most importantly – a car for the 100th Running of the Indianapolis 500 over Memorial Day weekend.

To his credit, Bobby Rahal is not content to take the scholarship and give Pigot only three races. Rahal has said that they will be seeking additional funding for more races, if not a full season.

A few weeks ago, I stated that it may be best for RLLR to remain a one-car team for 2016. It seemed to work this past year and I thought adding another car might upset the chemistry. But I also said that if they expanded to two cars, it might be best if they hired a promising young rookie so that there would be no question as to who the main driver on the team was.

Whether he remains part-time or even if funding is secured to run Pigot on a full-time basis, there will be no question that this is still Graham’s team. That way, there will be little, if any, disruption of chemistry; while reaping the benefits of having a teammate to share data and information with. This is a win-win for Pigot, and RLLR as well as the Verizon Indy Series and the Mazda Road to Indy.

This is a case-study in how the Mazda Road to Indy is supposed to work. Pigot was a young American who cut his teeth on karting and then the Skip Barber Championship. He entered the MRTI at the lowest rung of the ladder and succeeded at every step of the way. He spent five years total in the MRTI, before graduating into the Verizon IndyCar Series. You couldn’t draw up a better example if you tried.

This is clear proof that the Mazda Road to Indy is working. Gone are the days when there was no clear path into American open-wheel racing. With a structured ladder series all under the MRTI banner headed by Dan Andersen – I’m hoping that more young Americans will take note and follow the path that Spencer Pigot has taken rather than a feeder series that puts drivers into a pickup truck on a race track.

George Phillips

Please NoteThere will be no post here on Monday Oct 26. Susan’s mother passed away a few days ago at the age of eighty-six. The funeral is this weekend and we will be busy with family in from out-of-town. I will return here on Wednesday Oct 28. Please keep Susan and her family in your thoughts and prayers. – GP

12 Responses to “The Way It’s Supposed To Work”

  1. Mike Silver Says:

    Sorry for your loss. I’ll. be thinking of you this weekend

  2. We will indeed be thinking of you and Susan this weekend.

    In a confirmation of the generally conceded notion that IndyCar fans are never satisfied, a commenter elsewhere said (not seriously, I hope) that the name Spencer Pigot didn’t sound very Americanish.

    • Those same dudes who complain about how names “sound foreign” are also many of the same guys who claim that people tune into IndyCar races and then switch it off because of all the foreign sounding names. Because “Scott Dixon” and “Will Power” are such exotic names that every neophyte fan knows instinctively just by hearing the names called out by the announcers that they grew up elsewhere, as opposed to Topeka or Scranton or wherever in these here 48 lower states (Hawaii might as well be the Philippines and Alaska might as well be Russia or Canada, for all I care).

      • There have been some Native American drivers through the years. The Whitehorse brothers of Madison, Wisconsin come to mind. You can’t get much more “American” than that. My personal current favorite racing name is the young, up and coming Sting Ray Robb of the Boise, Idaho area.

  3. billytheskink Says:

    My prayers and condolences to Susan and to you, George. Very sorry for your loss.

    I was pleasantly surprised to see Pigot land at Rahal and I hope he impresses. Pigot caught my attention back in USF2000 in 2012 when he beat Matthew Brabham in a great wheel-to-wheel fight at the Night Before The 500 and I’ve been impressed with his rise through the ranks since. As you said, this is the way it’s supposed to work.

  4. I’m so sorry to hear about your loss. My thoughts are with you and Susan.

  5. Susan and George – My sincere condolences to you and your extended family on your loss.

  6. Chris Lukens Says:

    I kind of liked it when the “Road to Indy” came thru USAC and Formula 5000. Those guys were proven talent.

    I’ll also offer my condolences. My mom was 98 when I lost her. That was three years ago and I don’t think that a week goes by that I don’t think of her. At first it was hard to think about her, but now it is a great joy to remember what a wonderful person she was.

  7. I was waiting at the DW ProAm last month to congratulate Mike Hull on Dixon’s championship and Spencer walked by. Mike cut off his convo with the other person to congratulate Spencer on the Lights championship…and from that convo, it was abundantly clear that Mike was paying ***extremely*** close attention to the way drivers performed on the Lights finale weekend at Laguna Seca, and very, very complimentary of the way Spencer handled that pressure. Spencer carries himself as if he’s already in the ICS now…sort of a slightly more serious Newgarden. I look for great things from him if, as is sadly not the case for so many talented drivers, he gains the funding needed to land a full-time ride ASAP.

  8. George, I certainly understand your focus on family this weekend. It is time to celebrate an life story, now finished, but with a lasting effect on all those who remember.

  9. I am relieved to see at least one successful driver from our main feeder series getting a ride, albeit an occasional ride (at least at present). Cheers to Bobby Rahal.

  10. George and Susan,
    My sincere condolences at this difficult time. Try to hold on to all the good memories you have!

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