Photo: Indianapolis Motor Speedway, LLC Photography

Nicolas Dapero steps up to Indy Lights with Juncos Racing

Leave a comment

Juncos Racing has announced its first driver for the 2017 Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires season, with Nicolas Dapero set to step up from the Pro Mazda Championship Presented by Cooper Tires series.

The young Argentine, who will turn 18 on December 31, has enjoyed a couple successful tests with Ricardo Juncos’ team this offseason. He was part of Juncos’ driver development program in 2015 before advancing into Pro Mazda this past season from karting.

Dapero was one of only two drivers – Nico Jamin the other for Cape Motorsports with Wayne Taylor Racing – who stopped the Team Pelfrey juggernaut in its tracks this season. He won his first race at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca in September, and finished fifth in points after showing steady improvement throughout the year.

“I am so excited to move up to the Indy Lights series,” said Dapero. “I’m really excited to keep my career going with Juncos Racing! They are more than a team for me, they are like family. We will work harder than ever to be as competitive in each event. I don’t have a doubt that we will be really strong next year. I am really looking forward to a great season and I want to thank all of the people who have made this possible. I especially want to thank my family, Marcos Tenaglia, Marcelo La Manna, and the whole Juncos Racing crew for their great support they have for me!”

Juncos added, “I am extremely happy to announce Nico (Dapero) will be back for another season with Juncos Racing. He proved to be a top driver in the 2016 Pro Mazda Championship finishing on the podium multiple times, and even earning his first win at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca. Nico has shown great consistency and always finds a way to improve his skills behind the wheel. I am confident he will have a great rookie season in the Indy Lights series and I look forward to helping him improve into the next level of his racing career. I want to thank Nico for his commitment to the team, along with his family and sponsors who have been a big part of Nico’s successful career.”

Juncos Racing will continue at least as a two-car team into 2017, with the possibility of a third car added. Andre Negrao tested for the team at the Chris Griffis Memorial Mazda Road to Indy Test in October, and the Brazilian would need a new landing spot after the Schmidt Peterson Motorsports team ceased operations earlier this month. It remains to be seen whether Kyle Kaiser will return for a third season. Either of these two would be a good veteran driver for Dapero to learn from next season.

Ricciardo set to see Dale Jr.’s final Texas ride in two weeks (VIDEO)

Getty Images
Leave a comment

We’ve written before about Daniel Ricciardo’s love of Dale Earnhardt and his love of the No. 3, which Ricciardo has selected as his permanent number for the duration of his Formula 1 career. And additionally, Dale Earnhardt Jr. has offered up the opportunity that one day Ricciardo could race a JR Motorsports car in NASCAR Xfinity Series competition, and Ricciardo has said he’d be up for it.

And although Earnhardt Jr. has only used the No. 3 on a handful of occasions in his career in the NASCAR Xfinity Series, Ricciardo knows how much the number means to the NASCAR veteran as he prepares for his final few starts in the Cup Series the tail-end of this year.

After the Mexican Grand Prix next week, Ricciardo is set to stay in North America for the off-week between the Mexican and Brazilian Grands Prix.

In that break, he said he’ll see Earnhardt Jr. in person at the Cup race at Texas Motor Speedway (Sunday, Nov. 5, 2 p.m. ET, NBCSN) to ensure he gets to see him before he retires from full-time competition.

Ricciardo explained his planning during Thursday’s pre-race edition of the NBC Sports Group original digital series Paddock Pass, speaking to NBCSN’s Will Buxton at the United States Grand Prix at Circuit of The Americas in Austin.

“Well I’ll see him for the first time in Dallas. I’m gonna go to the NASCAR race in two weeks time at Texas Motor Speedway,” Ricciardo told NBCSN.

“Yeah, so, I gotta see him race before he hangs up the helmet.

“The Earnhardt family is a huge name in motorsport, not only in America but all over the world. Yeah I wish him well.”

Ricciardo is also optimistic he’ll get the chance to do a helmet swap with Earnhardt Jr. at the event.

“Hopefully I get to see him perform well in Texas. I’m gonna try to do a helmet swap with him. We’ll see how we go.”

Stay tuned for more on this over the coming weeks.