To note: This is the first in a series of stories highlighting Hispanic and Latino members of the INDYCAR and Indianapolis Motor Speedway community as part of the celebration of National Hispanic Heritage Month, which runs from September 15 to October 15. 15.
Ricardo Juncos is defined by his determination, on and off the circuit.
As INDYCAR celebrates National Hispanic Heritage Month, open wheel racing in the United States has no better example of a competitor continuing to overcome long-term challenges.
After the Argentinian economy collapsed in 2001, by dismantling the family auto repair shop in Juncos, he left the country with the American Dream, carrying only a strong work ethic, a backpack and $ 400 that had given him his grandmother. Juncos landed his first job as a mechanic for a go-kart team less than 24 hours after arriving in Miami, accepting the job even without guaranteed pay.
Juncos used the knowledge gained from racing Formula Renault in his home country to find racing success there. In no time, Juncos became the de facto manager of the karting team, and soon after, he had enough funds to start his own team, which quickly began to gain attention with the driver Sebastian. Ordonez winning races.
Future INDYCAR veteran Spencer Pigot and his family were among the first to join what was then known as Juncos Competition, and they shared a significant amount of karting success before going their separate ways.
In 2009, Juncos entered the Mazda Pro series – now Indy Pro 2000 – in what would begin its progression up the Road to Indy ladder. In 2010, the team won the Indy Pro 2000 title with Conor Daly at the wheel, and four more series championships and a pair of Indy Lights titles followed despite Juncos having to start over in 2010 after a sponsor unexpectedly bailed out.
In 2017, the team that had recently moved to Indianapolis made an impressive debut in INDYCAR, leading Sebastian Saavedra and Spencer Pigot to 15th and 18th places in the Indianapolis 500 presented by Gainbridge. Two years later, the small, big-hearted team knocked out two-time Formula One champion Fernando Alonso and his powerful McLaren team from the 2019 “500” when Kyle Kaiser completed a last-minute qualifying run.
All of this is the achievement that Juncos became known for, but few knew about the 2020 fight.
Like many businesses around the world, the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic has had a devastating effect on Juncos Racing. With Indy Lights canceling its season and many sponsors struggling financially, Juncos had no choice but to release nearly all of its 45 employees. For most of the year, the team fielded an IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship entry and two Indy Pro 2000 cars with five people including Juncos, his brothers Alejandro and Mariano, a truck driver and an engineer. To save as much of the small line of credit they had, they worked with the store lights off.
How did the season go? They won the Indy Pro 2000 Championship with Sting Ray Robb and stayed afloat in sports cars.
“One of the best years,” Juncos said this week. “Somehow we survived.
With Robb ready to move on to Indy Lights, Juncos had to rebuild this side of the team from scratch as none of the 2019 employees remained. As expected, this season’s results have been tough to come by, and Robb sits 10th in the standings with one event to go (next week’s doubles program at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course).
Juncos’ Indy Pro 2000 team have consistently fielded three cars this season and won two races. Reece Gold is fourth in the championship.
The best news of the year Juncos was the addition of Brad Hollinger as a business partner. Hollinger was once the second largest shareholder and board member of the Williams Formula 1 team, and his background seems to pair well with that of Juncos. Together, Juncos Hollinger Racing has a financial platform to continue its march towards relevance. As proof, the team has hired 22-year-old Englishman Callum Ilott for the last three NTT INDYCAR SERIES races of the season and plans to be a full-time team in 2022.
Quite simply, Juncos will not give up on his dream of motorsport regardless of the challenges thrown at him.
“Never, never – not at all,” said Juncos, now 46. “Even if I have to lose everything again, I will. It’s like, ‘OK, keep pushing.’
“I’m so confident in what I’m doing, 110%, that (good) things are going to happen.”
Juncos also has his wife, Danielle, who has accompanied this trip since they met in 2003 and is vice president of the company. Juncos is ecstatic about his support, a complement to the technical side that he brings to their relationship.
“She knows me so well and she has a sixth sense,” he said. “She’s probably the main reason we’re at this point.”
Juncos Hollinger Racing has a few dozen employees again and confidence within the organization grows with each ride. As Juncos said, it’s heartwarming to know “we’re racing” every weekend, including INDYCAR’s season finale, the Long Beach Acura Grand Prix (3 p.m. ET, NBCSN) on Sunday.
This is what Juncos does. He is running.