The wait is finally over for Kyle Kaiser.
After an offseason far too long for him, the 23-year-old California native makes his return to the NTT IndyCar Series this weekend in the INDYCAR Classic at Circuit of The Americas. The race will be his first in the series since the Indianapolis 500 last May.
There will be much familiarity for Kaiser, though. He returns behind the wheel of the No. 32 NFP Chevrolet for Juncos Racing, the same team for which he drove in a four-race rookie campaign last season.
Needless to say, Kaiser is eager to return to competition and build on the foundation laid in 2018.
“I think it was great for the team, getting our footing last year, learning how to set up the car, what progress we could make,” said Kaiser, the 2017 Indy Lights presented by Cooper Tires champion whose top NTT IndyCar Series finish last season was 16th place on the streets of Long Beach, California.
“By the end of the year last year in the last race we did, we made so much progress with the car.”
Kaiser has been in the No. 32 car for a pair of February tests – at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca and COTA. The latter is the home track for sponsor NFP, which holds its base of operations with nearly 250 employees in Austin, Texas.
NFP, a leading insurance broker and consultant that provides employee benefits, property and casualty, retirement and private client solutions, first came onboard for Kaiser’s Indy 500 debut, when he qualified 17th and finished 29th.
Kaiser has been a fixture at Juncos since 2014 while moving up through the INDYCAR-sanctioned Road to Indy development ladder program. And while this weekend’s race is his only confirmed event for 2019 to date, Kaiser places trust in the process guided by team owner Ricardo Juncos.
“The big reason I'm staying with them is because they just have so much passion and this is their livelihood,” Kaiser said. “This is all that they want to do and they want to succeed. They've taken care of me. They've given me great opportunities throughout the Road to Indy to get to this level and I want to be successful with Juncos.
“I want to give them first win in (the NTT) IndyCar (Series), the Indy 500. I want to give them everything that I can, obviously because it's mutually beneficial, but I think that they deserve all that success and I want to be the one to bring that to them.”
While the spirit is in no short supply, Kaiser realizes there is work ahead to compete at the sharp end of the grid for the team entering its third season competing part time in the NTT IndyCar Series.
“There's been huge progress, (but) it's very challenging because you're going against the best of the best,” Kaiser admitted. “These guys (the opposing teams) aren't slouches. They’ve got top drivers. They've got the top teams. A lot of R&D (research and development) goes into it, and that's something we've found is difficult. We don't have all the resources to put into shock and damper development. I mean, there's a lot of time in that.
“Not to throw excuses, but it just takes time to really understand the way the car works and find those last tenths, two-tenths or three tenths (of a second). It just takes a lot of practice and I'm obviously still learning. I'm not going to say it's all the team. It takes me to learn how to get the most out of the brake zones, most out of the car.
“It just takes a lot of time.”
Kaiser and the Juncos crew have four practice sessions to get things right before qualifying and the race at Circuit of The Americas. The practices begin at 11:15 a.m., 3:05 p.m. and 4:10 p.m. ET Friday, as well as 11 a.m. Saturday. Each airs live on INDYCAR Pass, the direct-to-consumer stream product of NBC Sports Gold available by subscription. Live timing and scoring with accompanying Advance Auto Parts INDYCAR Radio Network commentary is available for all weekend sessions at RaceControl.IndyCar.com.
NTT P1 Award qualifying begins at 3 p.m. Saturday and is shown live on NBCSN and INDYCAR Pass. Coverage of the first NTT IndyCar Series race at Circuit of The Americas begins at 1 p.m. Sunday on NBCSN, NBCSports.com, the NBC Sports app and the Advance Auto Parts INDYCAR Radio Network.