There is nothing quite like the month of May.
Year after year, the Indianapolis Motor Speedway emerges as the focal point for the sport, brimming with excitement, history, and traditions both new and old. But to Rising Star Racing drivers Spencer Pigot, Neil Alberico, and Josef Newgarden, “busy” is also an accurate way to describe the race through May.
This year’s inaugural Grand Prix of Indianapolis kicked off the action, featuring a double-podium weekend for Alberico and a pole-sweep for Pigot in a double-header debut for the Pro Mazda championship at the track.
The duo were far from done, as the road course race was quickly followed by a change of gears for the Pro Mazda pilots as the series staged an official test on the oval at the Lucas Oil Raceway, giving Alberico and Pigot the chance to prepare for the the next round of Pro Mazda competition, the “Night Before the 500” on May 24.
Meanwhile, after a frustrating finish in the Verizon IndyCar Grand Prix of Indianapolis, Newgarden was also moving his focus to the oval with a week of practice for the Indianapolis 500 leading up to the newly reformatted qualifying weekend.
Newgarden secured his spot in the Fast Nine and his chance at the pole position for the historical race in dramatic fashion.
With just ten minutes left in Saturday's qualifying session, Newgarden decided to risk it all and erase his previous time for a shot at making the Fast Nine. The move ultimately paid off for the Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing team as Newgarden locked the No. 67 Honda/Dallara into the all-important Fast Nine shootout on Sunday.
With Sunday seeing sunnier conditions and everyone laying it on the line to go for pole, Newgarden made it through a hairy run to emerge with a spot on the third row of the starting grid for Sunday’s Indianapolis 500.
“It was a bit rough out there, I could definitely feel the tires going from the very first lap and I was just using all my tools to keep it out of the fence,” said Newgarden, who had support from fellow Rising Star Racing driver Neil Alberico as well as program founder Art Wilmes during the weekend. “We definitely tried and we gave it as much effort as we could, trying to eke as much speed out of the car as possible. And I would much rather do that than do too little. So I am happy with what we did. It was just great to get to be a part of the show today. I think ultimately we might need a little more speed and more consistency, so we will try and up our game a little bit more next year. But the race is the important thing and I think we have a great car for it.”
Meanwhile, it was again time for Pigot to pack his bags, keeping himself busy with a quick trip north for the first event of the IMSA GT3 Cup Canada season, staged at the fabled Canadian Tire Motorsport Park. After opening the weekend with a top-ten finish, Pigot returned on Sunday to score a podium result in race two of the all-Porsche category as he grew his familiarity with the marque.
With Newgarden looking to convert the strong starting spot into a history-making run on Sunday and Pigot and Alberico targeting their own success on Saturday night, it is flat out for everyone involved at Rising Star Racing.
Rising Star Racing