Pigot shows promise, Newgarden claims top spot in afternoon practice laden with reds

Friday at Barber Motorsports Park was brought to you by the number 5 and the color red.

Turn 5 was the place to be during today’s Verizon IndyCar Series practices, and according to fastest-in-session Newgarden, it was due to the strong winds. Particularly, the direction of those strong winds.

“Today was very difficult with the wind conditions. It was kind of behind us going into Turn 5, it was behind us going into Turn 12, and that’s the most difficult wind direction you’re going to drive around here, and I think it’s going to flip 180 tomorrow.”

Newgarden actually started the ‘Turn 5 trend’ in the morning session, skipping his No. 1 Team Penske Hitachi Chevy through the gravel pit and back on to the grass before stalling out and needing assistance from the AMR Rescue Team to get back on track. It must have held some kind of good luck though, because he still had the second fastest lap of the morning.

That second session had a handful of drivers checking out Turn 5 – Zach Veach (No. 26 Honda, Andretti Autosport) and Simon Pagenaud (No. 22 Chevy, Team Penske) ended up sinking and stuck. At the very end of the session, James Hinchcliffe (No. 5 Honda, SPM) and Tony Kanaan (No. 14 Chevy, AJ Foyt Racing) decided to double-dip their wheels in the Turn 5 pit but they basically skimmed over it and continued on with chalky tires. There were three red flags in the hour-long practice, with the third and final waving when Rene Binder (No. 32 Chevy, Juncos Racing) made contact with the tire barrier in Turn 16.

Spencer Pigot, driving the No. 21 Fuzzy’s Vodka Chevy with Ed Carpenter Racing, was able to keep things clean in practice, and that earned him P2 in the afternoon,

“(Barber) is one of my favorite tracks, and I really enjoy it. It’s very fast, very flowing, and most of the time I’ve had success here. We started off this morning with a little bit of balance issues but made some obviously really good changes from practice 1 to practice 2, and the car felt really good. Very happy with the changes we made on the Fuzzy’s Vodka car. Excited for the weekend, and hopefully we can keep it up there.”

Pigot’s best IndyCar series finish is P7 at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course in 2017. This is his first season contesting all events on the schedule. His first two years were spent sharing duties in the No. 20 with Ed Carpenter – with Pigot on road and street and Carpenter on ovals. It looks like having consistency with weekend routines and his crew, is paying off for the MRTI superstar. Pigot has won more races in the ladder system than any other driver – 24 wins between USF2000, ProMazda, and Indy Lights, plus championships in 2014 in Pro Mazda and 2015 in Indy Lights.

Hopefully we will see the same learning curve and upswing with Pigot, as we saw with Newgarden. Remember that Newgarden didn’t get a win until his fourth full season in IndyCar. These kids show that they have chops as they are coming up the ranks, but the big cars pose entirely different obstacles. Giving them multiple seasons to work with a team, develop effective communication strategies, understand feedback, and develop a well-rounded understanding of what the car is telling them and how to respond to it, is how we end up with long-term career drivers in the series. That patience and investment by team owners like Ed Carpenter, is crucial to the survival of this sport, and consequently, its success.

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Photo credit: Chris Jones / IndyCar