Ricardo Juncos said even he underestimated the passion his fellow Argentinians have for motorsports during Juncos Hollinger Racing’s promotional trip to the country this week.
The NTT INDYCAR SERIES team was showcased in a series of high-profile events, highlighted by a festival at Circuit Termas de Rio Hondo, a road course where MotoGP has raced since 2013.
“Yes, it was crazy, man,” Juncos said Thursday before returning to Indianapolis, where the team he co-owns with Brad Hollinger is based. “We did the exhibition yesterday, on a Wednesday, in the middle of the week, and it was only (one NTT INDYCAR SERIES car) on the track.
“We predicted 3,000 to 5,000 people, but what showed up was more than 15,000 people. It was unbelievable; it was huge. I’m very, very happy.”
The two-hour event, which had a carnival atmosphere with music and activities accenting the on-track laps driven by Argentine touring car champion Agustin Canapino, was streamed live on the team’s YouTube channel.
Juncos formed Juncos Competition in Argentina in 1997. Upon moving to the U.S. in 2003, Juncos progressed the team through the various open-wheel divisions before debuting in the NTT INDYCAR SERIES with two cars in the 2017 Indianapolis 500 presented by Gainbridge.
This year, Juncos Hollinger Racing fielded rookie Callum Ilott in a full-season effort, and they started on the front row for the season-ending race, the Firestone Grand Prix of Monterey at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca.
This promotional tour began with the Juncos Hollinger Racing’s car on display last Friday night at the popular Michelangelo restaurant in the capital city of Buenos Aires. The team then was on track as part of a race weekend at Circuit of Buenos Aires, with more than 50,000 witnessing an NTT INDYCAR SERIES car at speed for the first time since 1971.
And get this: Juncos said many of those people didn’t even get to see the car complete its demonstration laps.
“Three hours later people were still coming in because they couldn’t make it (earlier),” he said. “We were finished (running) but they still came, three hours later, just to take a picture of an (NTT INDYCAR SERIES) car. That’s unbelievable.
“(The fans) in Argentina are fanatics; they go crazy for motor racing.”
Canapino, 32, has won multiple touring car championships in the country and is “the most popular driver in Argentina,” according to Juncos. The team principal said Canapino was “fantastic” in the car as expected, and he hopes to have him drive for the NTT INDYCAR SERIES team in the future, especially if the country lands a race on the calendar.
Canapino drove with Juncos’ sports car team in 2019 in the Rolex 24 At Daytona and the 12 Hours of Sebring.
Juncos said the goal of the weeklong event in Argentina was three-fold, beginning with an opportunity to show an actual series car to the people who last saw one live when Al Unser won the Indy 300 held in 1971 at the Rafaela Autodromo, an oval track that opened in 1953.
Juncos also wanted to honor the Argentinean companies that sponsor the team while offering NTT INDYCAR SERIES officials a chance to see the Termas de Rio Hondo circuit so it can be considered for a series race in the future.
Juncos, whose staff organized the trip, said everything went to plan.
“I think we accomplished everything,” he said proudly.