Juncos Racing

DAYTONA BEACH, Florida – Ricardo Juncos knew he would operate multiple teams out of his Speedway, Indiana, race shop. After a part-time NTT IndyCar Series campaign in 2018, he’s found another challenge for the organization to tackle.

Juncos Racing started a Daytona Prototype program in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship and will use two drivers who combined for 10 NTT IndyCar Series starts last season, along with a Juncos driver from the Road to Indy presented by Cooper Tires, when the No. 50 Juncos Racing Cadillac DPi makes its debut Saturday in the Rolex 24 at Daytona.

American Kyle Kaiser, the 2017 Indy Lights presented by Cooper Tires champion who made four NTT IndyCar Series starts last season, and Rene Binder, the Austrian who competed in six races, will share the car in the 24-hour endurance race with Indy Pro 2000 veteran Will Owen and Agustin Canapino, who qualified the car seventh on Thursday.

For Kaiser, it is his first time driving a race car without an open cockpit.

“The biggest difference I remember Kyle saying that, when he sat down the first time in the car, he couldn’t see anything,” said Juncos, the team principal. “That was the first time he was in a race car with a roof, so then that was a big surprise for him, the lack of visibility, but after we run the first time, he was OK.”

Kaiser does have help from experienced teammates. Owen has raced sports car in Europe the last couple seasons. Canapino, who like Juncos hails from Argentina, has driven touring car rally championship races throughout his career.

“This is a totally different world,” admitted Kaiser, whose best INDYCAR finish last year was 16th place on the streets of Long Beach. “It almost feels like a different sport being here, to be honest. While there’s been a couple of hiccups here and there because it is a totally new thing to learn, I’ve actually been very, very impressed with how well (the crew) have adapted, how quickly they get started here. I think they’ve done an incredible job.”

Kaiser is still looking at NTT IndyCar Series opportunities for 2019. He will test with Juncos Racing next month at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca but hasn’t been in an Indy car since May. His primary goal is to get back to the Indianapolis 500 this year.

“I’m working for it every day,” he said. “Hopefully, we get something together, that’s where I want to be.”

Binder’s best INDYCAR finish in 2018 was also 16th, at Barber Motorsports Park. Like Kaiser, he is seeking sponsorship to race again this year.

“We’re looking to INDYCAR but it’s not that easy,” Binder said. “Ricardo is trying hard, he has two cars. We have some good contacts with people in Canada for Toronto. It’s possible that I would race in Toronto.”

Owen raced for Juncos in 2015 and 2016, scoring 11 Road to Indy podium finishes. Owen saw the commitment that Juncos Racing then and was happy to take on the challenge of the sports car program with the team.

“It’s been everything that I saw before and even more now,” he said. “The commitment required to do a 24-hour race straight off the bat with only a couple of days of practice, what you need is a lot. You need to be working long hours, everybody on the team has put the time in and that starts from the example that Ricardo leads with. He’s there all the time at the shop, he’s there when everybody else is and he’s hands on with the car. That’s been one of my favorite things about working at the shop in the past couple of months.”

The team built the first sports car in nine days but there was little time to celebrate.

“We went to the shakedown and were thinking to run 50-75 miles and ended up running 250 miles the first day,” Juncos said. “We came (to test at Daytona) Dec. 11, we were very fast, so it was a surprise in a way, but on the other hand I know we did the same thing with the Indy 500. We built the team in a short time, so when you have that kind of group of people behind you and all the support and the system is the same, it’s (just) another race car.”

Juncos, too, remains uncertain about his team’s NTT IndyCar Series plans for 2019. Some pieces of the puzzle are coming together, and he expects to make an announcement soon for at least three races, including the Indy 500.

“Everything keeps going forward and we’re still finalizing sponsorship situations, so hopefully we have enough to add more races in INDYCAR,” Juncos said. “I want to do two cars (for the Indy 500). One, for sure, two cars, maybe. So I still need a little bit more time.”

The Rolex 24 at Daytona starts at 2:35 p.m. ET Saturday. NBCSN carries opening coverage live beginning at 2 p.m.