INDIANAPOLIS – “It’s a dream come true.”
Ricardo Juncos was succinct describing his emotions before his team officially debuts in the Verizon IndyCar Series on the grid of 33 for today’s 101st Running of the Indianapolis 500 presented by PennGrade Motor Oil.
A stalwart team in the Mazda Road to Indy presented by Cooper Tires development ladder sanctioned by INDYCAR, it was late February when Juncos Racing revealed its intent to compete in “The Greatest Spectacle in Racing.”
“Two and a half months ago, we had nothing and now we were able to put together a new INDYCAR team with new people,” Juncos said. “For me, coming from Argentina, which is obviously huge being in the Indy 500, INDYCAR, it’s been great.
“It’s so much more intense. So many things I didn’t have time to just sit and think about it, to be honest, and I don’t think I want to because I want to make sure I get my emotions right, because we’ve still got to be professional and get to work so we don’t make a mistake. It’s been great so far and I can’t wait for (today).
“No matter what happens in the race, I think we already win. Just to be part of this is amazing.”
Perhaps nothing was more fitting for the Juncos squad than the chance to grab Spencer Pigot to be part of the debut, which came about when Pigot, who drives only on Verizon IndyCar Series road and street courses this season for Ed Carpenter Racing, had no seat set for the Indy 500.
A longtime driver for the team from childhood all the way through to his 2015 Indy Lights presented by Cooper Tires title, Pigot came full circle to drive for Juncos in the Indy 500.
“Having him in the car for the 500 is something that is just hard to explain,” said Juncos. “Who is going to imagine that 14 years ago when he was 9 years old and (we were a) rookie team on the go-kart at the time, he was my second driver. To be together now is something that is just crazy. And it’s happening, right? We enjoy that moment as well and he’s a racer and a winner, and we want to all win, but at the same time we have to be realistic.
“What we’ve achieved in this short time is massive and we just need to enjoy the moment regardless of the results.”
Pigot, the 23-year-old Floridian, believes Juncos has every quality needed to succeed at the top level and characteristics that are unlike some other owners in motorsports.
“He’s a very smart guy, very determined and driven to succeed in this business,” said Pigot, driver of the No. 11 Juncos Racing Chevrolet today. “This is what he loves. He’s a motorsports fan at heart. This is his livelihood.
“He has to make this team work and make racing work in order for him to feed his family, pay his mortgage and so forth. He’s very unique in that sense. I think we have a lot of team owners in the paddock that don’t necessarily need the income from racing to live. They’ve got other businesses and other money, but this is it for Ricardo.
“It is a very family oriented team and he’s driven to succeed by his own passion because this is all he’s got.”
The Latin American connection for the team includes Colombian driver Sebastian Saavedra, who returns to the series for the first time since 2015 in the No. 17 AFS Chevy today.
“It’s very exciting. It puts together everything that, as a Colombian, you want – a full-on Latin American team,” said Saavedra. “That’s basically the mentality that Ricardo has put into his team. He’s had it for multiple years, but this is his first in the big leagues and it’s cool to watch.”
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