Ricardo Juncos has built a dynasty.
Although many came close, one team had clinched two Mazda Road to Indy presented by Cooper Tires driver’s championships in the same season – until now.
With titles in Indy Lights presented by Cooper Tires and the Pro Mazda Championship presented by Cooper Tires – the top two tiers of the development ladder sanctioned by INDYCAR – the “road to Indy” runs through Juncos Racing.
Kyle Kaiser’s journey to the Indy Lights title and $1 million Mazda scholarship – which awards him at least three races in the 2018 Verizon IndyCar Series season, including the 102nd Indianapolis 500 presented by PennGrade Motor Oil – was completed after four years (one in Pro Mazda, three in Indy Lights) with the team. The year brought consistency as 21-year-old Californian earned three wins and eight podiums in 16 races.
Pro Mazda champion Victor Franzoni was a late addition to the team, signed less than a week prior to the start of the season. The 21-year-old Brazilian’s season included seven wins and five runner-up finishes in 12 races.
Team owner Juncos wasn’t even aware of the precedent his team set until Sept. 3, the day his drivers clinched their respective championships in the MRTI finale weekend at Watkins Glen International.
“We just focus day by day, but we did (it) and we made history,” Juncos said. “This year was also the first time in history that an Argentinean team put two cars in the Indy 500. So the year we did these, we also clinched two championships. What more could you ask for, right?
“I always say the same thing: ‘When you work with something you love and you make a living doing something you like …’ This is not a job for us, this is just a passion and a way to live and to end it like this, so what else can I do? I’ve just got to thank all my people, my wife, my family, obviously the drivers that trust in the team, not just the drivers from this year, but also the beginning because this was a team that was very, very small in the beginning, 15 years ago. So we are here today because all of those people.
A personification of the American dream, Juncos’ journey began by coming to the United States from Argentina in 2002. He has risen from an unpaid go-kart mechanic in Miami, to a four-time MRTI championship-winning team owner (two each in Pro Mazda and Indy Lights), three of those coming since 2015.
How it all came together isn’t easy for Juncos to explain.
“It’s a good question and it’s hard to answer,” said Juncos.
“We also have no backing here. It’s just me and my wife and the customers willing to pay us for our service, and that’s it. So we’ve got to make it work somehow. It’s difficult because I’m still learning every day about this country. Obviously, a beautiful country, a great country … they give me opportunity of many things.”
Juncos credits some of his team’s success to its ability to merge strengths of cultures from both Argentina and the United States.
“We apply some of the way we do things in Argentina and some of America,” he said. “Try to mix some of the good things that we do and don’t do the bad things that we do, and the American way does. I think it’s a mix of culture here and the dynamic of the team is so intense, because I am so intense, every day at the shop as a team owner working, not just watching around.
“I want to make sure everything is fine and lead by example. I am one of these guys and I think that is a little bit unique compared to other team, plus, the passion.
“It’s hard to measure the passion. Everybody thinks they have passion, but how much do you have? How much are you willing to do? How much effort? How many nights are you willing to not sleep? We have no limits. If someone works more than us, then we are going to work more than them.
“That’s the way we are and that’s the way everyone is on this team, and I think that’s the key.”