Every driver wants to go into an offseason with as much momentum as humanly possible. When the Verizon IndyCar Series offseason lasts six months, you don’t want your last showing to be a bad one. Well, for two drivers, they have found some big momentum and now hope to keep it. For another, he wants it back.
One quiet storyline from two weeks ago in Portland was that of Spencer Pigot. He passed Scott Dixon in the closing stages and held him off for a fourth place finish in his No. 21 Chevrolet.
It was Pigot’s second straight top six finish as he also came home sixth at the Gateway Motorsports Park. This is a very impressive ending to a season for someone hoping to be back with this team again for the 2019 season.
But, if you go back to how well Pigot has done since the month of June began, the American has five top 10 finishes in a span of 10 races. He had five top 10 finishes in his brief Indy Car career entering this season.
He’s doubled that mark over the second half of this year and is looking more and more comfortable as the weeks go on.
“It’s (Sonoma) a very difficult track to manage outright speed and tire degradation, so we will need to develop a plan very quickly once we start practice,” Pigot said ahead of this weekend’s race. “We’ve had some really good races recently; hopefully, we can have one more and end the season on a high note for the Fuzzy’s Vodka team.”
If this is an audition for a ride for 2019, he’s making a great case to Ed Carpenter Racing to keep him in this ride for a second straight year and with the team for a third straight campaign. Sunday was his second career top five finish.
The other was a runner-up at Iowa back in July.
Another driver with an uncertain INDYCAR future past 2019 but having a great end of the year is Pietro Fittipaldi. He’s still racing with a broken leg from his crash in Spa in early May and ffter two straight ovals, one of which he had another wreck in, he was back making left and right hand turns two weeks ago. The last race he did that on was at Mid-Ohio on July 29 and he struggled all weekend. He started 22nd but finished 23rd that day.
With a leg still healing, he was skeptical about how the Portland weekend would go.
Instead, he came away with his first ever top 10 finish as he brought his No. 19 Honda home ninth. The week prior, he would finish 11th at Gateway.
Two very impressive runs over the last two races shows that a Fittipaldi name could be a rising star in this series one day soon.
“I obviously want to keep the momentum going at Sonoma,” the young driver said. “We had a good weekend at Gateway and then again at Portland, and hopefully we can have another good one at Sonoma to end the season. We tested there in February and it went really well. The No. 19 Paysafe car was strong but the conditions were very different from what it will be this week. It was a cold track back then and now it’s going to be a lot warmer. But again, we’re coming off of two strong race weekends, the car has been consistently fast, so I’m looking forward to this weekend. I’m recovering every week, I’m getting better every weekend that I’m back in the car, I’m getting stronger and faster, so I’m happy with that. We just have to keep it going.”
Zach Veach tested, practiced and qualified well at Portland but lost his momentum when he struggled in the race and finished 19th. He told me at Gateway his main goal was to end the year with six straight top 10 finishes. Well, how about 5-for-6?
Veach, was arguably one of the hottest drivers in the field heading into the race at Portland. The momentum was a real thing. His No. 26 Honda was becoming strong and stronger. You’re allowed to have one bad race, especially with how strong the car was, but two bad races without another race until next March, well that’s a momentum changer in the wrong direction.
The Ohio native is hoping for a solid top 10 on Sunday and to get that momentum back and focus on earning his first career win in 2019.
“It’s hard to believe we’re already at the last race of my rookie season in (the Verizon) IndyCar (Series),” said Veach. “We’ve accomplished a lot this year, top-10s, a couple top-fives and just last weekend our first (Firestone) Fast Six (in qualifying). We’d definitely love to close the season out with a best finish in the Group 1001 car. I know we have the speed to keep the momentum up in Sonoma.”