Ricardo Juncos’ next step in fulfilling a lifelong dream of racing in the 101st Indianapolis 500 presented by PennGrade Motor Oil is to hire his “second son” as a driver.
The new Verizon IndyCar Series team principal from Argentina confirmed today that Spencer Pigot will drive the No. 11 Juncos Racing Chevrolet with Oceanfront Recovery as a primary sponsor in “The Greatest Spectacle in Racing.”
Long before Pigot, 23, broke into the series last season with Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing and Ed Carpenter Racing, he celebrated go-kart victories with Juncos. They were then reunited for championships in the top two levels of the Mazda Road to Indy presented by Cooper Tires development ladder.
“I’ve known Ricardo and everyone at the team since I was 10 or 11 years old,” Pigot said. “I started racing for Ricardo back when it was Juncos Competition, the very first iteration of the team, back driving go-karts around Florida. It’s really cool to see their progression all the way through go-karting, the Mazda Road to Indy and now INDYCAR. We’ve shared a lot of success on that path.
“To now be reunited with them for their first Indy 500 and my second Indy 500, it’s something that if you would have told us back in the early 2000s when we were racing go-karts, I’m sure nobody would have believed.”
Juncos, who purchased three chassis and aero kits from disbanded KV Racing Technology, is expected to announce a second Indianapolis 500 driver as early as Wednesday. Practice on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway oval begins May 15, with two days of qualifications May 20-21 ahead of the 101st running on May 28.
“He’s been right there with us,” team principal Juncos said of Pigot. “We’ve been like family. He’s kind of like my other son, we’ve had so many years working together. I remember those days when he was a kid.”
Pigot finished 25th for RLL in last year’s Indy 500, his first and only oval start in the series.
Ten of his 13 starts have been with ECR, for whom he continues to race on road and street courses in the No. 20 Fuzzy’s Vodka Ed Carpenter Racing Chevrolet. Pigot will be in that car this weekend for the INDYCAR Grand Prix on the IMS road course before shifting to Juncos for the Indy 500. Pigot will carry backing in the Indy 500 from Oceanfront Recovery, a licensed men's substance abuse and disorder and treatment center in California, through his relationship with Rising Star Racing.
“Even when I wasn’t driving for his team, I was always cheering him on and watching with a close eye to see how he was doing,” Pigot said of Juncos. “While I’ve been with their team, we’ve had great success, winning a Pro Mazda championship (2014), winning an Indy Lights championship (2015), winning all sorts of go-karting championships with them. It’s going to be a little trickier to keep that run of big wins going (laughs), but we’ll see.”
Pigot smiles about his connection to the boss. They’ve celebrated together and Juncos has also been there when Pigot needed constructive criticism.
“He’s taught me a lot,” Pigot said. “He’s never been afraid to tell me off if I’ve done something wrong and congratulate me when I do something right. He’s definitely been a big part of my racing career and I’ve matured a lot being with this team.”
Veteran Steve Newey will be Pigot’s race engineer and Gary Michalak the crew chief.
“It’s great to be in the Indy 500 again,” Pigot said. “It’s the one race that everyone really wants to be in.
“It was a big effort from a lot of different people to kind of put the deal together. Everyone kind of knew these were the last remaining seats. It’s great to be here with Juncos Racing again, a team I’ve had a lot of history with, a lot of success with. To be back with them is going to be a great feeling.”
Pigot is eager to get a second chance at the Indy 500. The only other seat time he’s had on an oval was as a replacement test driver for the injured JR Hildebrand at Texas Motor Speedway last month.
“It was good to get back in the rhythm of doing 220 mph and being on an oval, but it’s been a while,” Pigot said.
“I learned a lot (from last year). It was my first oval race in an Indy car. It was my first time around the speedway in an Indy car. I learned a lot throughout the month. Everyone at Rahal was really good. Having Graham (Rahal) has a teammate was great; he’s got a lot of experience, and Bobby (Rahal, team co-owner) as well.”
Pigot’s best series finish has been seventh at the Honda Indy 200 at Mid-Ohio last year. Juncos has realistic goals for his first Indy 500 run. After all, he moved into his new Speedway headquarters in December and has spent much of the winter hiring personnel.
“We’re just going to focus on finishing the race because we’re a rookie team,” he said. “Two months ago, we had only one person here. Today, we have 40. We’re all new. We have these new people and don’t know each other yet, so we’re just getting to know each other.”
In that regard, it’s comforting that his first driver isn’t really a new hire.
“I kind of know what to expect,” Pigot said. “I know what it’s like to drive around Indy at 220, 230 (mph). I know what it kind of feels like in traffic. There’s stuff I won’t totally have to learn from scratch, I’ll just have to refresh a little bit.”
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