Updated- Pigot Out at Carpenter; Management Change at Laguna Seca

Photo: Spencer Pigot on Pole Day, 2018. Photo by Mike Silver

The 2019 Silly Season keeps spinning along. It seems as if it has been a decade  Alexander Rossi re-signed with Andretti and we all thought we were in for a boring off season. Today, two changes came to light. Neither is actually a surprise, but the reality always seems to hit hard.

After hearing rumblings all day, confirmation came that Spencer Pigot has lost his ride in the number 21 Ed Carpenter Racing car for 2020. The decision appears to be financial. Carpenter is looking for a driver who is bringing funding, which Pigot does not have. No replacement has been announced, but there are indications that 2019 Indy Lights runner-up Rinus VeeKay may be in line for that car.

Update

On Friday November 15 Rinus Veekay issued the following statement:

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Pigot won every step on the Road to Indy, but has not achieved much success in Indycar. his best finish was second at Iowa in 2018.  He may find an entry for the Indianapolis 500, but I think IMSA may be his best bet for steady employment next season. I have always thought Pigot had loads of talent, but he never consistently showed it in the NTT Indycar Series.

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Pigot practicing for the 103rd Running of the Indianapolis 500 in May

There is speculation as to who will drive the number 20 on the road and street courses. Ed Carpenter struck down the talk of F1 driver Nico Hulkenberg joining the team next year.

SCRAMP Out as Laguna Seca Management

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In an email from SCRAMP today:

“After 62 years of continuous management of the Laguna Seca Raceway, the Sports Car Racing Association of the Monterey Peninsula (SCRAMP) has been advised via email by County of Monterey Assistant County Administrative Officer (ACAO) Dewayne Woods that “…the County is now in negotiations with another proposer for management services at Laguna Seca Recreational Area.”

According to the agenda for Tuesday, November 19 Board of Supervisor’s meeting, that proposal is centered on Monterey County’s direct management of the Raceway and Recreation Area.

“This news comes as a surprise to the SCRAMP organization,” said Tim McGrane, CEO of WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca and SCRAMP, who took over the position in June 2018. “We were starting to make real progress on getting the facility and the raceway operations turned around and poised for the future, but it appears at this time we may not have the opportunity to see these plans through,” continued McGrane.

“As the existing facility operator, we were stunned by the fact that we were not provided the opportunity to discuss our proposal with the ACAO. The entire process has been unconventional, ranging from the bypassing of the County’s usual Request For Proposal (RFP) process, the announcement in mid-October requesting proposals from any interested parties with only two weeks’ notice, and complaints that SCRAMP had not met deadlines to submit a proposal when in fact a submission date had been agreed upon in May, and subsequently met, has been challenging,” McGrane said.

This is not the first time that the County has sought an alternative to SCRAMP. “We have been in this position before with the County administration, but we, our fans, racing series and teams, do have to look at the possibility of the era of SCRAMP operating Laguna Seca Raceway coming to an end,” McGrane said.

In 2015, Monterey County began private talks with International Speedway Corporation (ISC) who, after a careful review of the operational parameters of the facility, determined not to submit a formal proposal for management of the track. In 2016, the Monterey County Administrators Office entered into negotiations with another group to replace SCRAMP for 2017 but were unable to agree to terms that were mutually acceptable. The County then reverted back to a three-year agreement with SCRAMP to continue running Laguna Seca.

In 2018, the SCRAMP-run Laguna Seca Raceway attracted 263,888 attendees and generated $84.4 million in direct spending generated by event attendees over 26 days of the seven major events. 2019 saw SCRAMP orchestrate the long-awaited and highly-successful return of IndyCars to Laguna Seca, with a larger than anticipated spectator count for the weekend.

“We’ve delivered an extensive, forward-looking proposal to the County for a new, long-term 20-year management and operating agreement that incorporates solid plans for revenue generation and expense reduction, expansion of the use of existing facilities, and development of Laguna Seca into a world-class destination,” said CEO McGrane. “We are building the right team, both paid staff and volunteers, with extensive motorsports experience, institutional knowledge, and the dedication to lead this important Monterey County asset into a successful future. We hope we still have the opportunity to present our plans directly to the County Board of Supervisors and we would be proud to continue SCRAMP’s 62-year stewardship of Laguna Seca on behalf of Monterey County.”

The Sports Car Racing Association of the Monterey Peninsula, a 501(c)4 not-for-profit, was formed in 1957 by local business owners and civic leaders. SCRAMP’s goal was to raise the funds needed to construct a permanent motor racing circuit to maintain the tradition of sports car racing on the Monterey Peninsula which had begun in 1950 in the Del Monte Forest at Pebble Beach. SCRAMP is comprised of a Board of Governors, Race and Events Committees, and hundreds of loyal volunteers who donate thousands of hours each year to ensure the successful operation of events here.

The SCRAMP organization acquired leased land from the US Army at Fort Ord on August 7, 1957, and the now-legendary track, built with funds raised by SCRAMP, held its first race, the 8th Annual Pebble Beach at Laguna Seca SCCA National Championship Sports Car Road Races, on November 9 & 10, 1957. In 1974 the site was transferred from the Army to Monterey County, who together with SCRAMP, have managed the facility through this year.

SCRAMP’s current three-year management and operating agreement with Monterey County ends on December 31, 2019. SCRAMP currently employs a full-time professional staff of just over 40 team members. “

I thought the season finale at Weather Tech Raceway Laguna Seca was a well organized event. The media center was one of the best all year.  I know there has been some differences between SCRAMP and the county.

My hope is that this change does not jeopardize the Indycar event in the future. I always get nervous when track management changes.

Back later this weekend with a review of Ford vs. Ferrari.

 

 

 

 

The Front Row

I don’t normally get into historical statistics, but this front row fascinates me for several reasons. First Simon Pagenaud and Ed Carpenter are will make the3ir second straight front row starts on Sunday.  Their positions are reversed from 2018. Spencer Pigot’s car number, 21, is the switched number of last year’s third place starter, eventual winner Will Power, 12.

Cars starting in the front row have won 43 of the 102 Indianapolis 500s to date. The pole position leads with 20 victories, the middle of the first row has won 11 times, and the outside staring slot owns 12 wins. Some think the third spot is the best place to be at the start. It was somewhat advantageous in the roadster era, but I’m not sure it works with today’s cars and the jump the pole car seems to get.

It seems odd that all three front row cars carry a number in the 20’s. The top three with a little change in order could have been 20, 21, 22. The last time the entire front row consisted of cars all numbered in the 20s was 2013.  Carpenter (20) on pole, Carlos Munoz (26) in the middle, and Marco Andretti (25) stared on the outside.Carpenter finished 10th, Munoz second, and Andretti 4th.  From my research, that was the only other time the front row cars all bore numbers in the 20s.

I found some other notable cars numbered in the 20s that began the race in the front row, including some race winners- Dario Franchitti (27) in 2007; Emerson Fittipaldi (20) from the pole in 1989, back when he still drank milk. Floyd Roberts (23) won in 1938  also from the pole; and Mauri Rose (27) in 1947.

Fred Agabashian had two front row starts in 1950 and 1952 with car 28. he started second in 1950 and won the pole at a then record speed in 1952. Unfortunately, the Cummins Diesel did not fare well in the races. Agabashian finished 28th and 27th in those races.

I don’t know what the track has in store for these front row starters with the numbers in the 20s on their machines. History looks to be a mixed bag. i think we’ll see a couple of them up front near the end. one of them is looking to be my pick for the win.

 

 

Quick Thoughts- Indianapolis 500 Qualifying

Above: Spencer Pigot is on the provisional pole, beating Will Power by 11 ten thousandths of a second. Photo: Kyle McInnes

I find it difficult to get excited about the Fast Nine or being in the top 30 when there is still a chance to make the field tomorrow.  Granted, it’s a small chance, but today isn’t the end of the world.

The cars are behaving consistently in crashes, which I think is a good thing. It shows the safety features built in are performing correctly. The wrecks have looked very scary, but the drivers have all walked away from the cars.

The time used for the Fast Nine could be better used to give those trying to make the field multiple chances. Trying to make the last row shootout like the Fast Nine really hurts the smaller teams.

James Hinchcliffe cannot buy a break at IMS. This is his second major incident in five years.

I still think if a driver wants to requalify I think they should withdraw their time.  That alone adds drama to the day.

It was quite an accomplishment for Juncos to get their car on track and make a qualifying run. It will be a great story if Kaiser gets in the race.

Because of  the continuous qualifying attempts, teams haven’t had time for practice. They need to make a qualifying run to get some track time.

It was nice to see Pippa Mann at a press conference for a much better reason than why she attended one last year.

Ed Carpenter, who has all three drivers in the top nine for the second straight year, was asked if there will be team orders during the Fast Nine tomorrow. He answered, ” If there were team orders I would have been fastest today.”

Best Stories of the Day

Kyle Kaiser getting his car on track and making a qualifying run.

Hinchcliffe returning in his backup car. he’s still struggling to get into the top 30.

Colton Herta qualifying fifth as the fastest Honda.

Pippa Mann making the race after last year’s disappointment. Congratulations to Clauson Marshall, a new team, for earning a spot in the field.

Ben Hanley and Dragonspeed getting solidly in the race.

Head Scratchers

I expected a better showing from the Andretti cars. Alexander Rossi and Marc o Andretti were strong but no match for the Chevys.

Arrow Schmidt Peterson has performed below expectations all season. I hope they can find an answer overnight.

Dreyer and Reinbold has struggled all week. It took a strong late run from J. R. Hildebrand to get one car in the field.

 

I will have more thoughts on qualifying tomorrow morning.

 

 

 

 

Quick Thoughts Indianapolis 500 Qualifying

Above: Spencer Pigot is on the provisional pole, beating Will Power by 11 ten thousandths of a second.

I find it difficult to get excited about the Fast Nine or being in the top 30 when there is still a chance to make the field tomorrow.  Granted, it’s a small chance, but today isn’t the end of the world.

The cars are behaving consistently in crashes, which I think is a good thing. It shows the safety features built in are performing correctly. The wrecks have looked very scary, but the drivers have all walked away from the cars.

The time used for the Fast Nine could be better used to give those trying to make the field multiple chances. Trying to make the last row shootout like the Fast Nine really hurts the smaller teams.

James Hinchcliffe cannot buy a break at IMS. This is his second major incident in five years.

I still think if a driver wants to requalify I think they should withdraw their time.  That alone adds drama to the day.

It was quite an accomplishment for Juncos to get their car on track and make a qualifying run. It will be a great story if Kaiser gets in the race.

Because of  the continuous qualifying attempts, teams haven’t had time for practice. They need to make a qualifying run to get some track time.

It was nice to see Pippa Mann at a press conference for a much better reason than why she attended one last year.

Ed Carpenter, who has all three drivers in the top nine for the second straight year, was asked if there will be team orders during the Fast Nine tomorrow. He answered, ” If there were team orders I would have been fastest today.”

Best Stories of the Day

Kyle Kaiser getting his car on track and making a qualifying run.

Hinchcliffe returning in his backup car. he’s still struggling to get into the top 30.

Colton Herta qualifying fifth as the fastest Honda.

Pippa Mann making the race after last year’s disappointment. Congratulations to Clauson Marshall, a new team, for earning a spot in the field.

Ben Hanley and Dragonspeed getting solidly in the race.

Head Scratchers

I expected a better showing from the Andretti cars. Alexander Rossi and Marc o Andretti were strong but no match for the Chevys.

Arrow Schmidt Peterson has performed below expectations all season. I hope they can find an answer overnight.

Dreyer and Reinbold has struggled all week. It took a strong late run from J. R. Hildebrand to get one car in the field.

 

I will have more thoughts on qualifying tomorrow morning.

 

 

 

 

2019 Indycar Grid Gets Less Fuzzy

Usually, that headline is a positive statement. However, today Ed Carpenter Racing  announced that Fuzzy’s Vodka will no longer be a sponsor. The official announcement:

(INDIANAPOLIS) October 29, 2018 – After seven consecutive seasons, one of the most recognizable partnerships in the IndyCar Series will conclude as the relationship between Ed Carpenter Racing and Fuzzy’s Vodka has come to an end. While Fuzzy’s Vodka will concentrate on business initiatives outside of motorsports moving forward, Ed Carpenter Racing’s 2019 plans are unaffected with the No. 20 and No. 21 entries still competing full-time.

Fuzzy’s Vodka has been with Ed Carpenter Racing since the team’s debut season in 2012 and has supported ECR in each of the 118 IndyCar Series events since. Team owner Ed Carpenter has had Fuzzy’s Vodka on the sidepod of his car every one of his races the past seven seasons, including his three successful Indianapolis 500 pole runs and runner-up finish this year. A Fuzzy’s Vodka car has pulled into victory lane five times and Fuzzy’s Vodka drivers have stood on the podium 16 times. Away from the track, ECR is proud to have supported Fuzzy’s successful activation efforts, including unique bottle designs and heavy promotion during the Month of May which led to substantial sales uplifts each year.

Carpenter is grateful for the support Fuzzy’s Vodka has given his team and is now focused on the future. “I am very appreciative and proud of the relationship between ECR and Fuzzy’s, really going back to before the team began. It has been a good run and I wish them nothing but the best with their future endeavors. Tony George, Stuart Reed and I started ECR together back in 2012 and we are still as committed now as we were then to winning Indy 500s and competing for IndyCar Series championships. Our plans for 2019 and beyond remain unchanged and I cannot wait to see what we accomplish together moving forward.”

Ed Carpenter Racing is deep in preparations for the 2019 IndyCar Series season, having just solidified a driver lineup for the upcoming year earlier this month. Spencer Pigot will continue with ECR for a fourth season, his second as the team’s full-time driver of the No. 21 Chevrolet. Carpenter will remain the only owner/driver in the series as he continues to drive the No. 20 Chevrolet in the five oval races. A new partnership with Scuderia Corsa will see Ed Jones behind the wheel of the No. 20 Ed Carpenter Racing Scuderia Corsa Chevrolet for the 12 road and street course events. Jones will also compete in the 2019 Indianapolis 500 alongside Carpenter and Pigot as the team enters a third car, the No. 64 Ed Carpenter Racing Scuderia Corsa Chevrolet.

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Fuzzy’s has been a great Indycar sponsor. Activation was great with their commemorative bottles including this year’s set of four honoring A. J. Foyt’s four Indianapolis 500 victories. Fuzzy’s had a booth in the fan village for the first few years of their involvement. ECR had two of the best looking cars on the grid as well.

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Spencer Pigot at Iowa, where he earned a career best second place.

Some Thoughts-

Will Fuzzy’s continue to sponsor the Turn 2 Suites?

Is Scuderia Corsa bringing another sponsor? Oriol Servia’s car last May did not have a lot of sponsorship on it.

Will Preferred Freezer Services have increased involvement with the 21 car?

Will Direct Supply be more involved with the team?

 

 

Quick Thoughts- Portland Grand Prix

Scott Dixon must have been an alchemist in another life. He turned what looked to be a disastrous points day into gaining points on his closest rivals.

What can I say about the Dale Coyne with Vasser Sullivan racing team and Sebastien Bourdais? Took P1 in Saturday practice, crashed the next lap, pieced a car together to qualify fourth, then finish third in the race. That team will sleep well tonight. This is the best story of the weekend.

It was a tough ending to what had been a great weekend  for Zach Veach. His top ten streak ended. I still look for great things from him next season.

Another great day for Spencer Pigot. He’s another young driver coming into his own. His fourth place finish today and his second place at Iowa show his late season maturity.

The crowd today was the largest I’ve seen for an Indycar race outside of IMS. I hope attendance figures for the weekend are released. Each day was a crowd other tracks would have been thrilled to have on race day.

For a race where not much passing was anticipated, there was a lot of drama and plot twists. Takuma Sato’s two stop strategy paid off. The yellows fell at the right time for him, while others were caught out by them.

Overall, it was a good race.

I believe Robert Wickens has clinched  Rookie of the Year. It shows what a strong season he was having. Continued hope for recovery for him.

Whos Rossi’s Rival?

At the beginning of the season the talk was of a rivalry between Alexander Rossi and Josef Newgarden. After St. Pete, it was Rossi and Wickens. In mid season it Rossi and everybody. It turns out that the rivalry was Rossi and Scott Dixon. They are the only two realistically with a shot at the title.

The twenty nine point difference between Dixon and Rossi is a good argument to get rid of double points. I don’t think the series needs six drivers eligible to win the championship at the last race unless the points naturally fall that wa

Notes

There is a strong buzz that COTA will be the seventeenth race. The schedule should be announced Tuesday.

After two consecutive  races with huge crowds,  Sonoma will look emptier than usual.

Fernando Alonso will test an Andretti Autosport car at Barber this coming Wednesday.

Look for my full race recap on Wildfire Sports later tonight or tomorrow morning.

 

Quick Thoughts on the Iowa Corn 300

This was the best oval race of the season, maybe the best race of the year to date. The lead was not safe, there were battles for position and lots of passing, both high and low. Cars were going different speeds allowing for separation. There were two on track passes for the lead, including one for the win. I don’t know what more anyone could want.

James Hinchcliffe could have done donuts for thirty minutes if he wanted to. He is the master of the comeback after being knocked down by the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. In 2016, the year after his near fatal crash, he won the pole for the 100th running of the Indianapolis 500. This year he gets bumped, but comes back to win a race.

It was evident early that Hinchcliffe had the fastest car. After the first pit stop, the car was not getting off turn 2 well, but the next stop corrected that problem. Josef Newgarden had a very fast car as well, but not as fast as Hinchcliffe’s. newgarden had the early advantage of track position. Once Hinchcliffe caught and passed him with 45 laps to go, it was game over.

Congratulations to Ed Carpenter Racing’s Spencer Pigot on his first career podium. Pigot drove a smooth race after starting 19th and fought with Hinchcliffe for second after the restart. I have expected great things from Pigot. It seemed something always kept him from getting a good result.

The Finish

I have no problem with the way the race finished. A caution with six laps to go on a larger track may not have been a problem to have a one or two lap shootout. A track the size of Iowa chews up laps quickly even under caution. Jay Frye and Ryan Novak explained their case after the race. They just ran out of time. No team was told that the race was going back to green. Those that pitted did so on their own hoping the race would resume.

Fans are not entitled to a green flag finish, Races end at the scheduled distance. I do not want to see this changed in Indycar.

Cutting Into Dixon’s Lead

Scott Dixon should put a table outside his hauler with a sign reading, “Please Put Your Points Here.”  Alexander Rossi and now Josef Newgarden have given back precious points. Rossi lost 22 points in Detroit Race 2 by trying to stay in front of Hunter-Reay. Newgarden lost the runner-up spot today with the late pit stop costing him eight points. Dixon now leads Newgarden by 33 points, but it could be closer.

None of the contenders  besides Newgarden had a good day.

The Crowd

Attendance seemed to be slightly better than the last two years, but still not great. The buzz is that there will be a race  next year and that it will be a night race. Moving today’s race up a couple hours helped, but I know a lot of people who still could not attend because of work Monday.

Watch for my full race recap on Wildfireradiosports.com on Tuesday.