Fifteen years ago, Ricardo Juncos came to the United States and started work as an unpaid go-kart mechanic. Today, Juncos announced that he will operate a team competing in the 101st Indianapolis 500 presented by PennGrade Motor Oil.
Juncos, the founder and team principal of Juncos Racing – the highly successful operation in the Mazda Road to Indy presented by Cooper Tires developmental ladder – said his team will take the next step to the Verizon IndyCar Series on its biggest stage at Indianapolis Motor Speedway in May. While driver and manufacturer announcements await, the news signals a “dream come true” for the immigrant from Argentina.
“The opportunity that this country gave me is unbelievable,” said Juncos, whose Mazda Road to Indy program has developed champions and current Verizon IndyCar Series drivers the likes of Conor Daly and Spencer Pigot. “Sometimes I shock myself where we are today. If you told me 15 years ago that all this will happen, I would be laughing.
“Today, 15 years later, it’s a reality. What is it (more that) you can ask in life if you can make a living doing something you love?”
With support and equipment from KV Racing Technology, Juncos Racing is preparing for the Indy 500 at the team’s new 40,000-square-foot shop in the shadows of IMS. At the same time, it will continue to field two full-season entries in Indy Lights presented by Cooper Tires, the top rung of the INDYCAR-sanctioned Mazda Road to Indy.
Jay Frye, INDYCAR president of competition and operations, said Juncos is a shining example of the Mazda Road to Indy’s mission.
“INDYCAR has been fortunate to have many drivers graduate from the Mazda Road to Indy program to the Verizon IndyCar Series, and those drivers have done a phenomenal job over the years,” said Frye. “Another goal of the Mazda Road to Indy program is to graduate teams and INDYCAR is working hard to help create opportunities for those teams to move up to the Verizon IndyCar Series. Ricardo and Juncos Racing have a great history of success and we are proud to have them become a part of the Verizon IndyCar Series.”
Ricardo Juncos started a small formula car team in Buenos Aires in 1997. Faced with difficult economic times, he moved to America in 2002 and began as an unpaid mechanic at a karting team in Florida. Within three months, he said he was the team manager.
“I always tried my best to get the best of any situation,” Juncos said. “Always on my mind was live every day but do the best we can in each individual moment.”
Juncos Racing entered Mazda Road to Indy competition in 2009 at the middle level, the Pro Mazda Championship presented by Cooper Tires (then called Star Mazda). A year later, Daly (then 18) won a record-tying seven races on his way to the title.
Now entering his second full season in the Verizon IndyCar Series, Daly credits his time at Juncos for helping him get where he is today.
“It’s fantastic to see Ricardo Juncos take his team to the top level,” said Daly, who will drive the No. 4 ABC Supply Chevrolet for AJ Foyt Racing this season. “I was very lucky to have been a part of the team in my Pro Mazda days and had one of my most successful seasons in racing with them. Ricardo has such a deep love for the sport and is so passionate about his team and drivers succeeding. The Juncos team has won races at every level and I wouldn’t be where I am today without them.”
The team expanded its effort into Indy Lights in 2012 and had its most successful season three years later, capturing the Indy Lights drivers’ championship with Pigot and the Pro Mazda team title. Pigot, who’ll drive a second Verizon IndyCar Series season for Ed Carpenter Racing in 2017, said he was happy but not surprised to learn of Juncos taking the next step.
“(The Verizon IndyCar Series) has always been their goal and Ricardo is very determined to make that happen,” Pigot said. “They have been a big part of my career since I started karting and it’s been great to watch the team grow from two go-karts to being a Mazda Road to Indy powerhouse and now a Verizon IndyCar Series team. I wouldn’t be an INDYCAR driver without the things I learned from them and I’m glad to have been part of their success.”
Ricardo Juncos said several factors contributed to the decision to enter the Indianapolis 500 this year. The team’s new shop in Speedway, Indiana, offers enough room for the Indy effort while also continuing its Indy Lights program. With an eye toward joining the Verizon IndyCar Series fulltime in 2018, he approves of the series’ technical direction with the planned universal aero kit.
On top of that, the assistance and equipment from KV Racing co-owners Kevin Kalkhoven and Jimmy Vasser made it a “no-brainer” to consummate the deal. It included access to KV’s technical data, which Juncos said would have taken years on track to acquire.
“When you think about it,” Juncos said, “if I delay one year, probably we don’t have this opportunity anymore.”
Also crediting Frye and Mark Miles, CEO of INDYCAR and Indianapolis Motor Speedway parent Hulman & Co., for being “massively, massively helpful,” Juncos said the goal is to finish the Indianapolis 500 and use it as a learning experience.
“At the moment I am going to focus on the Indy 500 and that will be a starting point,” he said. “The ideal situation will be to run fulltime in ’18. If the opportunity happens that we can race more races than the 500 (in ’17), we’re going to take it.
“Now we are becoming a new team in the Verizon IndyCar Series and will run in ‘The Greatest Spectacle in Racing,’ the Indianapolis 500,” Juncos added. “This is definitely one of the biggest moments in my life.”
TIL NEXT TIME, I AM STILL WORKING ON MY REDNECK!