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October 20, 2015

Dan Andersen

Spencer Pigot

Bobby Rahal

THE MODERATOR: Welcome, everyone, to today's IndyCar media teleconference. Earlier today Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing announced it has signed 2015 Indy Lights champion Spencer Pigot for three races in the 2016 Verizon IndyCar Series season. Pigot will race at the Grand Prix of St. Petersburg, the Grand Prix of Indianapolis and the 100th running of Indy 500 next May.
We are pleased to be joined by Spencer Pigot, Bobby Rahal, the co-owner of Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing, and Dan Andersen, owner and CEO of Anderson Promotions, which oversees the Mazda Road to Indy.
A few weeks ago, Spencer, we were talking about you winning the Indy Lights championships and the prospects of moving up to the Verizon IndyCar Series. Now you know where your home is for 2016.
SPENCER PIGOT: Thanks a lot. It's an exciting time for me in my career right now, coming off the Indy Lights championship. Now another exciting bit of news to be joining Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing. Looking forward to getting started and getting back in an IndyCar.
THE MODERATOR: Bobby, obviously you've only announced the three races for Spencer's car for next season, but you've obviously seen enough of him in the junior series to add another car to your team. What did you see in Spencer in the past and what are the prospects for adding more races for him?
BOBBY RAHAL: To begin, I met Spencer's father many years ago. He always kept me in the loop as to what was going on with Spencer. Then Chris, once he started racing on the same weekends, seen what he can do. Pretty impressive. I always thought he went about his craft in a great way.
After winning Star Mazda, then this year in Indy Lights, pretty good crowd in Indy Lights. I saw some of the races and I thought he really used his head. I think that's so important.
Talked to Dan when he sent out the RFP, and here we are. But clearly we hoped that this isn't limited to just three races. Obviously funding plays a role for anybody, any team. But we've already received some interest. So the goal here is to run Spencer as much as we can in 2016.
THE MODERATOR: Dan, the last four champions of Indy Lights have moved up to the Verizon IndyCar Series the following season. In 2015, nearly a third of the grid had moved up from the Mazda Road to Indy. What does news like today mean for the Indy Lights Series and the Mazda Road to Indy program?
DAN ANDERSEN: Mazda Road to Indy is exactly what we're talking about today, seeing a fine young prospect like Spencer develop and train and move up the ladder is really what the program is about. It is unlike anything else in the world.
Thanks very much to Mazda and Cooper for the part they play in that, for all of our partners. But today the story is about Spencer and Rahal Letterman Lanigan. Thank you, Bobby, for stepping up and providing a fantastic opportunity for Spencer. I think he's going to surprise a lot of people, do very well in his rookie year. We have designed a program that tries to mix in the road courses, street circuits and ovals. With the new Indy Lights car it's far closer to an IndyCar in terms of feel than the prior edition. I think he's going to turn a lot of heads, surprise a lot of people.
Bottom line is this is what it's all about. This is what we do and why we do it, to see young drivers advance, and it's working.
THE MODERATOR: We'll open it up for questions for our guests.

Q. Bobby, last week you told another outlet that you were unsure about adding a second car to your lineup. Signing Spencer, has that changed your plan for adding a second car?
BOBBY RAHAL: Well, in that same interview or chat, I said we would probably run a second car at Indy. I think I've been pretty consistent with that.
But we had been speaking with Dan Andersen about the whole program. I think we thought, first off, that Spencer has a lot of potential. He's certainly proven that every step of the way. I thought that these three events, that we could do those and do them well. The last thing I want to do is do them poorly, then Spencer ends up bearing the brunt of that. That's not good.
I think the team is in real good shape after last year. These three events were easy for us to do with personnel, the fact that two of them are in Indianapolis, and it seemed like a good starting point for me.
The goal still is now, of course, to see how many more races we can do, all depending on funding. But first things first. I'm just pleased we're going to have more than one race with Spencer, we'll have some time to get to know him, do some testing.
Of course, you have rookie orientation. We had good cars on the racetrack last year. I think that will certainly be an advantage for Spencer coming into the 500 in particular. You've got a good teammate. I think technically seems to be in a good spot. These are races we thought he could do and do well.

Q. Spencer, what have you been doing to prepare yourself physically and mentally for the move up to IndyCar?
SPENCER PIGOT: It's obviously a big jump. The cars are a lot bigger, a lot more physically demanding. I got a taste of it at Sonoma a few months ago. Definitely opened my eyes a bit. I'm back in Indy now, so I'll be training here at PitFit Training here in Indy, getting me ready for next year. Just have to work on my neck and upper body strength.
But I felt pretty good after the test at Sonoma. So just have to fine tune some things and continue to do what I've been doing the last couple years.

Q. Bobby, how many extra test days does a rookie get? The 12 days, is that just a blanket number?
BOBBY RAHAL: The 12 days are for a full-season team, and that includes everything, the official tests, includes tire tests, that includes manufacturer's tests. It's pretty restrictive.
Obviously for Spencer, there's rookie orientation, and the opportunity will be there to go to Sebring. Once we get the aero kits and what have you sorted out on the cars, go down to Sebring I'm sure and test. We want to improve his odds as much as we can, but that is limited by the rules. So we have to be pretty smart about how we test and where we test.

Q. Dan, I realize you might not be allowed to say this, but what was it about the Rahal Letterman Lanigan proposal that swung you in favor of that particular one over the other four teams that put in bids?
DAN ANDERSEN: We did have interest from a number of teams. But, frankly, Bobby's proposal and the résumé that is his team spoke volumes to me.
Bobby and I had an affiliation, a partnership, if you will, a number of years ago in Indy Lights. I'm well aware of his operation. I actually ran my Indy Lights team when I was a team owner out of his Ohio shop.
Graham drove for my Star Mazda team back in the day. We go back a ways. I have a lot of respect for the Rahal organization. The performance they showed last year was strong. The package he put together was attractive.
We wanted the right thing for Spencer. There are a lot of options out there, but this is a package that we think Spencer can really shine in his debut performances. It was very important to us not to simply put him in a car, but to put him in the right car.

Q. Spencer, your knowledge of the three tracks that you're racing on, how much did that influence your wanting to compete? Or is it because St. Petersburg has become your home?
SPENCER PIGOT: The decision to do the three races, like Bobby spoke about earlier, a few different factors that went into it.
Obviously the two in Indy are close to the shop and everything. That was good to be doing the whole month of May with the Indy GP, following up with the 500. But St. Pete, it's a great track for me. Enjoyed racing there. Had a lot of success racing there. It will be great to be part of the season-opener.
Also like Dan said, getting a taste of an IndyCar on a street course, road course and oval. It's a great package for me to gain as much experience as I can in my rookie season.

Q. Bobby, when do you hope to have Spencer on track for his first test? Before the end of this year at least?
BOBBY RAHAL: I don't think so. Again, we're so limited that we want to make sure that when we do the testing, that the car is in the spec it's going to be in when you actually are going to compete with it. As you know, I'm sure the parts availability and what have you on the Honda aero kit, I'm sure it will be much more timely this year. I think everybody learned a lesson on that front last year.
There's really no point in going to test if the car isn't where you think it's going to be come race day. We want to make sure from an aero standpoint we are where we need to be frankly.
There's plenty of time. Again, we're limited, so we want to make sure that when we do test, we test at the right place. As it gets later in the year, the places to do that become fewer and fewer. Nevertheless, I think it certainly won't before the end of the year, but I imagine it will be early in '16 when we go out with Spencer the first time.

Q. Spencer, with that being said, how nice is it you already had one day in an IndyCar to know what to expect, and now you'll have a reference point when the new aero does come onboard?
SPENCER PIGOT: It's nice to have a small base of what to know heading into my next test. It was great to drive an IndyCar. Still, it's going to be a new track. There's going to be a lot of time between the test at Sonoma and my next one.
Anytime you get to drive an IndyCar is fantastic. At least I know more or less the process of the car, driving style. I learnt a lot at Sonoma which I can continue to work on and build from.
So, yeah, just really looking forward to the first test and getting back in the car.
THE MODERATOR: Seeing we have no further questions for Spencer, Bobby and Dan, we will thank them for their time and congratulate you on today's announcement. That will wrap up today's IndyCar media teleconference.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports

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