Homegrown champion: Pigot wins Indy Lights title


Race 2 results || Championship standings

MONTEREY, Calif. – The goal listed on Spencer Pigot's biography is "to win the Indianapolis 500."

The native of Orlando, Fla., will get that opportunity next May courtesy of a $1 million Mazda scholarship afforded the champion of Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires.

Spencer PigotPigot, who turns 22 on Sept. 29, earned the title in the series’ 30th anniversary season by sweeping the doubleheader at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca. He entered the finale six points behind front-runner Jack Harvey in the championship standings.

A decisive win in Race 1 on the 2.238-mile, 11-turn road course put him eight points up on the second-year Schmidt Peterson Motorsports with Curb-Agajanian driver, and the tension surrounding Race 2 dissipated early when Harvey was penalized for jumping the start and sent to the back of the field for the 38-lap finale. He finished ninth.

It is the second consecutive year that Harvey, 22, who won the Freedom 100 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway among his four victories, has finished runner-up in the championship. In 2014, he tied Gabby Chaves on points only to lose on a tiebreak.

It also is the second consecutive year that Pigot, whose six wins is the most since Alex Lloyd's eight in his 2007 INdy Lights championship season, has claimed a Mazda Road to Indy series title with Juncos Racing.

"It's been a great year. We came out of the gate strong with a couple of podium finishes and then struggled at a few places, but that's to be expected with a new team and new driver," said Pigot, who swept three doubleheaders. "Every day after a difficult weekend we would put our head down and come back. I thanked the team for never giving up and never losing trust and faith in me and always working together."

Homegrown Mazda Road to Indy talent:

* 2015: Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires champion (six wins among 10 top-five results, four poles in 16 races)
* 2014: Pro Mazda Championship Presented by Cooper Tires champion (six wins among nine top-five results, five pole positions in 14 races)
* 2013: Pro Mazda fourth place (one win, four other podium finishes in 16 races)
* 2012: Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda second place (eight wins among 11 podium finishes, five pole positions 14 races)
* 2011: USF2000 second place (three wins among eight podium finishes, four pole positions in 12 races)

The past four Indy Lights champions -- Chaves, Sage Karam, Tristan Vautier and Josef Newgarden – competed in the Verizon IndyCar Series this past season.

The scholarship provides at least a three-race Verizon IndyCar Series package, including the 100th Running of the Indianapolis 500 Mile Race, to the champion. Pigot got a head start with his initial seat time Aug. 13 in the No. 1 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet of 2014 Verizon IndyCar Series champion Will Power during a shared test day at Sonoma Raceway.

Spencer Pigot"It's the biggest race in the world and for American drivers it's maybe more special because it has such history in American racing," Pigot said. "People think that Europe has all the history in auto racing, but we have the oldest race and that's the one we want to win. Knowing that I'm going to get a shot at it, and hopefully it's one of many, I'm excited to see what the future holds in the Verizon IndyCar Series."

He'll be fielding inquiries and calling on teams in the near future. Juncos Racing principal Ricardo Juncos said the team won't move up with Pigot for 2016, but he's taking incremental steps to field a Verizon IndyCar Series program in the not-so-distant future.

"The new Indy Lights car, which is closer to an IndyCar, has been fantastic for the drivers," Pigot said of the Dallara chassis with features such as push to pass, paddle shifting and a turbo-charged Mazda engine. "It was a huge step forward and I think Indy Lights is the perfect training ground for anyone who wants to be in the Verizon IndyCar Series."

Others who have won the Indy Lights title over the past three decades include four-time and reigning Verizon IndyCar Series champion Scott Dixon, Tony Kanaan, Paul Tracy, Bryan Herta, JR Hildebrand, Oriol Servia, Townsend Bell, Jon Beekhuis and Townsend Bell.

Others who have won multiple Mazda Road to Indy titles include Vautier (Indy Lights, Pro Mazda), Raphael Matos (Indy Lights, Pro Mazda), Hildebrand (Indy Lights, USF2000), Matthew Brabham (Pro Mazda, USF2000), Karam (Indy Lights, USF2000) and Jay Howard (Indy Lights, USF2000).

Pigot, who started second in Race 2, overtook Max Chilton in the first turn of the first lap and held off challenges on two restarts to lead Sean Rayhall of 8Star Motorsports across the finish line by 2.0542 seconds for his 24th victory in the three Mazda Road to Indy series.

Chilton, who a day earlier broke Tony Kanaan's 18-year-old qualifying lap record, finished third. Chilton also reset Helio Castroneves' 1996 race lap record at 1 minute, 16.1633 seconds in Race 2.

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