Rare are the words “Chip Ganassi Racing” and “struggling” used in the same sentence, but that was their story two weeks ago at St. Petersburg.
Flash forward to Barber and with Honda’s improvements and running on Firestone’s road course rather than street course tires, all three of the CGR cars made strides even though the final timesheets didn’t reflect it.
Scott Dixon ended sixth while Dario Franchitti and Charlie Kimball fell off from practice one to two. Still, they explained the positive developments made going into Saturday’s qualifying.
“We worked on the overall balance of the car and we still have some work to do,” said Dixon, the lone Target-liveried driver this weekend. “I feel pretty good about qualifying because we didn’t even use new tires and we left a lot of speed out on the table. We should be in good shape for tomorrow.”
Franchitti and Kimball are running near identical liveries this weekend – each in orange and blue colors. Franchitti’s in a Banana Boat paint scheme while Kimball’s usual Novo Nordisk colors have been inverted as part of a team-wide “Race with Insulin” weekend awareness promotion.
“We made a massive amount of changes throughout the day to the Banana Boat car,” said Franchitti. “We have a very clear direction on where we want to go. Hopefully we can make good use of that tomorrow.”
“We had the fourth-quickest time in practice one this morning and then in practice two we got caught up with some yellows and some traffic,” added Kimball. “We have a couple different directions, with the car set-up, to go over tonight. I’ll think we’ll be in good shape when it comes time to qualify tomorrow morning.”
Juncos Racing continued to bolster its entries in the Pro Mazda Championship Presented by Cooper Tires by signing Carlos Cunha to pilot a third Juncos Pro Mazda entry for 2018. Cunha, who finished third in the 2017 Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda season on the back of seven podium finishes, joins Rinus VeeKay and Robert Megennis in Juncos’ Pro Mazda lineup for 2018.
Cunha previously tested with the team at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course in October and joined Juncos for the Chris Griffis Memorial test at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in November, testing cars for both the Pro Mazda and Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires teams.
“It’s great to become a part of Juncos Racing,” said the 18-year-old Cunha. “I am really excited to start the 2018 season with Juncos Racing. This fall we did some testing together and from there I was able to see how focused everyone on the team is and I even felt like I became a part of their family in no time. I am confident we will get great results together next year and I look forward to learning and growing more with the team. It will be a huge pleasure and also a great responsibility to carry the number one on my car, thanks to (2017 Pro Mazda champion Victor Franzoni) and I hope to deliver it back to the team at the end of the year!”
Team owner Ricardo Juncos added, “We are excited to add Carlos to our Pro Mazda lineup. From the moment we started testing with him in early October, we knew he would be a great fit for our team. Carlos has been very quick in testing and even had an impressive showing in the Indy Lights car at the Chris Griffis test back in October. He had a great run this past season in the Pro Mazda series and we are confident he will carry that momentum into the 2018 season.”