Spencer Pigot has been released by IndyCar squad Ed Carpenter Racing after three and a half seasons, amid speculation Nico Hulkenberg could race for the team in 2020.
Team owner Carpenter said in August he was keen to retain Pigot for 2020 and the two shook hands on a deal after the Laguna Seca season finale, though no agreement was signed.
Pigot, the 2015 Indy Lights champion, was told on Thursday afternoon he would not be retained.
“To be fair to Ed, although we shook hands at Laguna, shortly after that he did warn me that he may need a driver with funding,” Pigot told Autosport.
“That’s the situation we’ve been at since then, and now I just got home from talking to Ed when he informed me that would be the case.”
Rinus VeeKay, who finished runner-up in Indy Lights this year, has twice tested for Carpenter and is believed to be set for one seat, but there are also rumours that outgoing Renault Formula 1 driver Hulkenberg will step into the team’s #20 car as a road and street course driver.
In that capacity he would share the ride with oval specialist Carpenter, and therefore be a replacement for the already departed Ed Jones.
Contacted for comment on the Hulkenberg rumours, Carpenter responded: “I am not ready to comment on our line-up outwardly, but that part is false”.
Hulkenberg declined to discuss the ECR speculation when quizzed about it in the Brazilian Grand Prix paddock on Thursday, beyond saying that he would “keep it limited to the road courses” if he ever moved to IndyCar because he was “not a big fan” of oval racing and “it just seems not my thing”.
Pigot said he was leaving ECR on good terms.
“I understand – circumstances do change a lot in this business,” he added.
“It kind of sucks, but I’m not the first driver to be replaced by someone with funding, and I won’t be the last.
“That’s not to say the driver they replace me with won’t be a good driver but at the end of the day, I was their guy until things changed financially.
“I really enjoyed my time with Ed’s team. He’s got a great group of people there and I liked working with Ed as a team-mate in oval races and as an employer all the time.
“At the same time, I understand why the decision’s been made and the route they have to go.
“That’s how racing is sometimes, but at the end of the day I’m appreciative of the chance he gave me.”
Asked where the decision left him in terms of opportunities within the IndyCar paddock, 26-year-old Pigot – who does not have personal sponsors – said he was open to all approaches but that all available drives require funding.
“I don’t really have any money so I’m not sure there are any options for me, to be honest,” he said, “but I’ll keep plugging away at it and see what’s out there.
“I’ve also talked to a few teams in IMSA.
“I like racing over there, and I’ve gained some good experience in the Prototypes [as one of Mazda’s third drivers for endurance races, and in Juncos Racing’s Cadillac] so I think that’s something that I’ll have to give a bit more time and focus to over the next few weeks.”