INDIANAPOLIS – The Indianapolis Motor Speedway can bring the highest of highs and lowest of lows. For Juncos Racing and Kyle Kaiser, this week has been a whirlwind of both.
Now they’re faced with trying to qualify for one of the last three grid spots available for the 103rd Indianapolis 500 presented by Gainbridge in Sunday’s Last Row Shootout.
On his first lap at speed during practice on Friday, Kaiser lost the back end of the No. 32 Juncos Racing Chevrolet in Turn 3 and slammed hard into the SAFER Barrier. A small-budget team already having a tough start to the month in regard to sponsorship, Juncos was dealt a costly blow less than 24 hours before first-day qualifying.
Kaiser’s crew pulled an all-nighter Friday to get a backup car ready for Saturday. Collecting spare parts from its shop in Speedway, Indiana, other teams and chassis maker Dallara, Juncos crew members from its NTT IndyCar Series, Road to Indy and IMSA sports car teams pitched in on the repairs.
With the aid of some pizza, ice cream, coffee and a lot of spirit, the Juncos team managed to get the car fixed to be first in line for technical inspection at 5 a.m. ET Saturday. Team owner Ricardo Juncos was impressed and proud of the effort put forward.
“The team that I have I want to believe is the best, for sure,” Juncos said. “What we did last night I know was a big challenge for us and putting the other car back on track (Saturday).”
Veteran team engineer Tom Brown also sang the praises of the entire organization.
“These guys are fantastic,” Brown said. “We just worked solid. We didn’t even leave to go and eat. The food was brought to us.”
The dedicated effort paid off, as Kaiser was able to complete 32 important laps in Saturday morning’s pre-qualifying practice. When it came time to qualify, however, the speed just wasn’t there. The best of Kaiser’s three four-lap runs on the 2.5-mile oval averaged 226.245 mph – exactly 1 mph shy of what it would have taken to secure the 30th and final locked-in position for the race on Saturday.
It pushed Kaiser and Juncos into the Last Row Shootout on Sunday, where they’ll attempt to grab one of the three remaining grid spots.
"Obviously it was a great effort by the team to get the No. 32 car out this morning so we could run it and get a chance to feel it out before qualifying began,” Kaiser said.
“Since the car was put together last minute, obviously it’s not going to be the same handling and speed as the other car, but we went into this knowing that. I cannot thank the team enough for getting us out there today. Overall, I am very proud of the effort by everyone at Juncos Racing. We gave it all we had today.”
The team owner echoed the sentiments of his driver.
“The speed is not the same because this is not the oval car,” Juncos said of the backup car last used on the Circuit of The Americas road course in March. “But I think we show speed and we show that we can do something really nice with no budget at all.”
The team opted to bypass Sunday morning’s practice for last-row participants, allowing the team more time to prep it for the all-important qualifying run later in the day. A team representative assured that Kaiser will make an attempt in the Last Row Shootout and hopefully put a happy ending to a difficult few days.
“Unfortunately, sometimes life keeps putting you in tough situations, and this is another one,” Juncos said. “It’s not the first time we’ve been in very tough situations and we always survive. It’s not easy, right?”