From Windermere to Indy, Spencer Pigot is making his name known in the world of IndyCar.
As Spencer Pigot rolls over in his bed, he checks the time.
It’s around 6 a.m. on Sunday, May 26, and the noise of people and cars outside his RV is loud enough that it seeps through the window sills. Going back to sleep for another five minutes isn’t going to happen.
So he wakes up, gets himself ready and takes an hour or so to brace himself for the monster he’ll soon be battling that lies just outside his front door.
Time slips by swiftly, and as the hour hand hits 9 a.m. it’s time for the first interviews of the day — the first of many that he’ll have to sit through.
As the Windermere Prep alum opens a door and steps out into the sunshine, there in front of him sits the grandstands of the world-famous Indianapolis Motor Speedway. It’s Memorial Day Weekend in Indianapolis, which means one thing — it’s time for the Indy 500.
The weight of the moment doesn’t truly sink in until just before the green flag drops.
“You have a few minutes with the team before you get in, and that’s when you kind of realize what’s about to happen,” Pigot said. “You start focusing, and you definitely have some nerves, but once I get in the car and put the helmet on and the engine starts up, all that kind of goes away.”
FROM WINDERMERE TO INDY
In the world of racing, no race is bigger than Indy.
It’s the kind of race that makes families set aside a whole day so they can watch, and it’s one that kids with a dream of racing play out in their head over and over again.
Pigot was, and still is, one of those kids.
For as long as he can remember racing has always been a part of his life, and it all started because of his dad, who had raced a bit and was involved with the sport.
The young Pigot decided to jump into racing, and got his first go-kart when he was living in the race-obsessed state of North Carolina. Though the state is well known for being the birthplace of NASCAR, it wasn’t the type of racing that Pigot wanted to do.
“I was about 8 years old and, as you know, it’s all kind of oval racing around there and we always liked Formula 1 and IndyCar and road racing, so we would always have to drive from North Carolina to Ohio or down to Florida to find a road course,” Pigot said. “We would drive 10 to 12 hours to find a different type of track, and then all of that became a lot easier when we moved to Windermere when I was about 9.”
With so many tracks around, Pigot really dove deep and dedicated a lot of time to his sport, and the practice paid off.
Over the next few years he began winning — first at the state level, then on the national and international levels. By the time he knew it, he was graduating from Windermere Prep and was quickly moving up the ranks as he captured the 2014 Indy Pro 2000 championship and 2015 Indy Lights title for Juncos Racing before moving up to IndyCar in 2016.
Luckily for Pigot, his very first pro race was only about a two-hour drive southwest.
“It was really neat — it’s always been my dream to be an IndyCar driver and race in this sport,” Pigot said. “My first IndyCar race was kind of my home race — the St. Pete race just outside of Tampa. It was one of my favorite events, and to make my debut there was really cool.
“It was a long journey for me and my family, and we’ve been working toward this goal together since I was 9 years old,” he said. “It was kind of surreal and I tried to soak it all in, but at the same time (I was) trying to focus on driving the car and learning as much as I could. The weekend itself was a lot to take in.”
Since that first race, Pigot has joined on to compete full-time with Ed Carpenter Racing, and has picked up three top-five finishes and 12 top-10 finishes.
IN THE DRIVER’S SEAT
As the engines of 33 cars fire off with monstrous roars, Pigot grips the wheel and takes a deep breath.
He had spent the past two weeks practicing on the track, and in qualifying hit an average of 230 miles per hour — good enough to land him on the front row in the third position.
Back in his first race at Indy in 2016, Pigot remembers the speed of the first few laps — how it felt as though he had been shot out of a cannon. But this was his fourth go-around — he knows to expect the unexpected.
“Going into the race you kind of have to be open to anything,” Pigot said. “You can try to make plans and have things that you want to do, but you’re racing against 32 other people and your plan can be dictated by what other people do.”
For the next 500 miles Pigot battles it out against racing’s best, and for a while he stays in the top 10. Unfortunately a few things mid-to-late in the race threw off his time, and Pigot finished in a respectable 14th place.
There’s a disappointment in his voice when he looks back on that day at Indy, but when he looks at the whole picture he sees just how far he has come since he first put on a race helmet as a kid.
“Racing side-by-side at 180 to 200 miles per hour is like nothing else, and I’ve always enjoyed battling wheel-to-wheel ever since (I was) go-karting,” Pigot said. “It’s a lot of fun — to me there’s not much better than that.”