- The 2017 Verizon IndyCar Series season came to an end Sunday after 85 laps along the rolling hills of the road course at Sonoma Raceway. Spencer Pigot finished his season with a 13th place finish in the GoPro Grand Prix of Sonoma while JR Hildebrand was just behind in 14th.
- Pigot qualified 17th for the final race of the year and Hildebrand rolled off 20th. On the first lap, contact between Pigot and James Hinchcliffe necessitated an early pit stop and front wing change for the No. 20 Fuzzy’s Ultra Premium Vodka Chevrolet. Meanwhile, Hildebrand deftly avoided the chaos in front of him and gained four positions over the course of the first lap. After his unscheduled pit stop, Pigot dropped to 19th.
- Hildebrand brought the No. 21 Fuzzy’s Ultra Premium Vodka Chevrolet into the pit lane for his first stop on Lap 8, switching from the primary black Firestone Firehawks he started on to a set of alternate reds. Once he re-entered the race, Hildebrand used his new tires to get around Pigot, moving Hildebrand to 16th and Pigot back to 17th.
- Pigot came in for his first full-service stop on Lap 22, later than the majority of the field as a benefit of taking a splash of fuel during the front wing change. After a switch from primary blacks to scuffed red tires, he rejoined the race directly in front of race leader Simon Pagenaud. Pigot, on cold tires, was passed by Pagenaud and dropped one lap behind the field. Pigot stayed directly behind Pagenaud and when Pagenaud pitted on Lap 30, Pigot regained his lap.
- Hildebrand continued moving up through the field, working his way up to 11th before his second pit stop on Lap 27. He came out of the pits in 15th on another set of red tires. With clear track and no competitors around him, he maintained his position for the duration of the ensuing stint.
- After a stop on Lap 43 for Pigot and Lap 46 for Hildebrand, the ECR teammates found themselves next to each other on track. Hildebrand led the way in 16th while Pigot was 17th. Hildebrand eventually pulled away from Pigot, building a sizable gap as he chased down 15th place Carlos Munoz. Hildebrand eventually caught Munoz, but was not able to get by him with tires so late in their life cycle. Pigot caught back up to Hildebrand, but was in the same situation and was not able to gain any positions.
- Pigot made his final stop of the year on Lap 64, switching to a set of sticker red tires that had been saved for the end of the race. Hildebrand stopped for sticker blacks two laps later, coming out just behind Pigot. The two were running 15th and 16th, respectively, following their stops. They worked their way up to 13th and 14th, but directly behind them were race leaders Pagenaud, Josef Newgarden, and Will Power. With five laps to go in the race, Pigot and Hildebrand let the leaders by as to not impede the championship. The teammates maintained their positions to the end of the race with Pigot finishing 13th and Hildebrand finishing 14th. Ed Carpenter Racing alumni Newgarden won the 2017 Verizon IndyCar Series championship.
- The team will return to their Speedway, Ind. race shop to begin preparations for the 2018 season. Pigot will step into the No. 21 full-time in 2018 while team owner Ed Carpenter will drive the No. 20 Fuzzy’s Ultra Premium Vodka Chevrolet in what will be his 16th year of Indy car competition. Pigot and Carpenter will soon begin an extensive off-season testing program to prepare for 2018’s universal aero kit. The 2018 Verizon IndyCar Series season schedule has not yet been announced.
SPENCER PIGOT (No. 20 Fuzzy’s Ultra Premium Vodka Chevrolet), Finished 13th: “I damaged my front wing on the first lap by getting into James (Hinchcliffe) at the top of Turn 3. It was definitely not my intent to ruin their race so apologies to James and all of his crew. That incident also made a long race for us. We were forced to save fuel and just pound around out there just to see what positions we could make up. Overall, I learned a lot this year and I’m excited to be back in the Fuzzy’s Vodka car in 2018!”
JR HILDEBRAND (No. 21 Fuzzy’s Ultra Premium Vodka Chevrolet), Finished 14th: “It just felt good to put in a good race. I really enjoy this track and I had a lot of friends and family in the crowd so that’s always fun. We diced it up pretty good early in the race in the first couple of stints. We had one particularly bad stint, we had a set of reds that just went off big time and lost a lot of track position. After that, we kept getting caught behind cars we were quicker than, but were catching them too late in the stints to do anything about it. Unfortunately, we weren’t able to make totally good on what was a pretty good day in terms of overall pace. All in all, I’m glad to be back on track here and had fun out there. We’ll see what goes on from here.”
TIL NEXT TIME, I AM STILL WORKING ON MY REDNECK!