IndyCar: Juncos Racing 2018 Season Review

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Editor’s note: Over the next two weeks, MotorSportsTalk will review how each organization in the IndyCar Series performed in 2018 and also taking a look ahead to 2019. We kick off the series today with Juncos Racing.

Juncos Racing dipped its toe in the IndyCar waters in 2017 with a two-car effort in the Indianapolis 500. They went even farther into the IndyCar waters in 2018, running 12 of 17 races.

Juncos’ history in the junior categories is a storied one. Ricardo Juncos’ organization has numerous karting titles, three Pro Mazda championships (2010, with Conor Daly, 2014, with Spencer Pigot, and 2017, with Victor Franzoni), and a pair of Indy Lights titles (2015, with Spencer Pigot, and 2017, with Kyle Kaiser).

Despite their history, their foray into IndyCar was always going to be tough – new teams rarely run up front out of the box. Juncos’ task was made even harder with three different drivers, all rookies, sharing driving duties in the No. 32 Chevrolet in 2018.

Still, the 2018 season will serve as a solid foundation as they continue to develop their IndyCar program.

 

Kyle Kaiser

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Team: Juncos Racing
Years in IndyCar: 1
Career wins and podiums: 0 wins, 0 podiums, 0 top fives, 0 top 10s
2018 final standing: 30th
2018 final stats: 4 starts, 0 wins, 0 podiums, 0 top fives, 0 top 10s
2018 best race finish: 16th (Long Beach)

SEASON WRAPUP: Kyle Kaiser, the 2017 Indy Lights champion, could only run four races in his 2018 IndyCar season due to budget reasons, so it’s difficult to gauge his performance. Contact ended his night early at ISM Raceway, and a mechanical failure dropped him out of the Indy 500 just passed the halfway point.

However, he finished his other two starts (Long Beach and the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Road Course) and didn’t make any major mistakes along the way, an underrated and vital component of any driver first breaking into IndyCar.

LOOKING AHEAD TO 2019: Kaiser’s future is uncertain as he does not yet have any races lined up for 2019. However, he is reportedly working on at least an Indy 500 entry, and more races could materialize. A full-season effort would obviously be the ideal scenario, but it remains to be seen if that comes to fruition.

QUOTE (following his Indy 500 effort, in which he finished 29th): “We had a really good race car. We were hanging with guys that were running up front and we were fighting through the field. We are not 100% sure what put us out of the race, but we know that it was out of our control.  I am just very happy with everything this month. It was a great experience. I was improving and I learned so much.”

 

Rene Binder

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Team: Juncos Racing
Years in IndyCar: 1
Career wins and podiums: 0 wins, 0 podiums
2018 final standing: 28th
2018 final stats: 6 starts, 0 wins, 0 podiums, 0 tops fives, 0 top 10s
2018 best race finish: 16th (Barber Motorsports Park)

SEASON WRAPUP: Rene Binder, who won four races in the 2017 World Series Formula V8 3.5 championship, brought sponsorship to the Juncos outfit, which helped them add races to their program. However, despite the success in Europe, his IndyCar campaign was a struggle – he finished 21st or worse in four of his six starts.

LOOKING AHEAD TO 2019: It is not known if Binder will return to IndyCar. He obviously brought sponsorship with him in 2018, and if that continues in 2019, it’s always possible that he returns, either with Juncos or with a different team.

QUOTE (following Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course, his final start of 2018, where he finished 21st): “It was a tough race and it was a really long one. We had a decent race and a good start at the beginning. Our strategy was working well with the Firestone red tires and we were able to make up some positions. Even though we did not finish where we hoped to, I am pleased overall and this has been a great experience running in the Verizon IndyCar Series.”

 

Alfonso Celis Jr.

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Team: Juncos Racing
Years in IndyCar: 1
Careers and podiums: 0 wins, 0 podiums
2018 final standing: 36th
2018 final stats: 2 starts, 0 wins, 0 podiums, 0 tops fives, 0 top 10s
2018 best race finish: 17th (Portland International Raceway)

SEASON WRAPUP: Celis Jr. ran a pair of Indy Lights races, at Barber, before Juncos moved him up to the IndyCar team for two starts, at Road America and Portland International Raceway. He finished 20th and 17th, hardly noteworthy on paper, though he did finish both races without incident and brought the car home in one piece each time. Given his lack of experience, that was about all you could expect.

LOOKING AHEAD TO 2019: A full season of Indy Lights competition would do him a world of good, but he may also be in the running for an IndyCar seat if he brings the needed funding.

QUOTE (following Portland International Raceway, where he finished 17th): “The main goal was to finish and we completed that today. We had a good strategy going into the race. In the beginning, I battled some issues with my radio, but I was able to fix it. I think I was also pushed out wide a couple of times, so we lost some positions there. Overall, I am happy with finishing on the lead lap. I want to thank the Juncos Racing crew for all of their hard work and my family and friends for being here to support me.”

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As expected, FIA denies granting Colton Herta a Super License to race in F1

Colton Herta Super License
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The governing body for Formula One on Friday said IndyCar star Colton Herta will not be granted the Super License that the American needs to join the F1 grid next season.

“The FIA confirms that an enquiry was made via the appropriate channels that led to the FIA confirming that the driver Colton Herta does not have the required number of points to be granted an FIA Super Licence,” the FIA said in a statement.

The FIA decision was not a surprise.

Red Bull was interested in the 22-year-old Californian and considering giving Herta a seat at AlphaTauri, its junior team. AlphaTauri has already said that Pierre Gasly will return next season and Yuki Tsunoda received a contract extension earlier this week.

However, AlphaTauri has acknowledged it would release Gasly, who is apparently wanted at Alpine, but only if it had a compelling driver such as Herta to put in the car. F1 has not had an American on the grid since Alexander Rossi in 2015, but Herta did not particularly want the FIA to make an exception to the licensing system to get him a seat.

At issue is how the FIA rates IndyCar, a series it does not govern. The points it awards to IndyCar drivers rank somewhere between F2 and F3, the two junior feeder series into F1.

IndyCar drivers have criticized the system in defense of Herta and the intense, close racing of their own highly competitive series. Herta has won seven IndyCar races, is the youngest winner in series history and has four starts in the Indianapolis 500. He qualified on the front row in 2021 and finished a career-best eighth in 2020.

Rossi, who has spent the last four seasons as Herta’s teammate at Andretti Autosport, lashed out this week because “I’m so sick and tired of this back and forth” regarding the licensing.

“The whole premise of it was to keep people from buying their way into F1 and allowing talent to be the motivating factor,” Rossi wrote on social media. “That’s great. We all agree Colton has the talent and capability to be in F1. That’s also great and he should get that opportunity if it’s offered to him. Period.

“Motorsport still remains as the most high profile sport in the world where money can outweigh talent. What is disappointing and in my opinion, the fundamental problem, is that the sporting element so often took a backseat to the business side that here had to be a method put in place in order for certain teams to stop taking drivers solely based on their financial backing.”

Rossi added those decisions “whether out of greed or necessity, is what cost Colton the opportunity to make the decision for himself as to if he wanted to alter career paths and race in F1. Not points on a license.”

The system favors drivers who compete in FIA-sanctioned series. For example, Linus Lundqvist earned his Super License by winning the Indy Lights championship.

Lundqvist’s required points come via the 15 he earned for the Lights title, 10 points for finishing third in Lights last year and his 2020 victory in the FIA-governed Formula Regional Americas Championship, which earned him 18 points.

That gave the 23-year-old Swede a total of 43 points, three more than needed for the license.

Herta, meanwhile, ended the IndyCar season with 32 points. He can still earn a Super License by picking up one point for any free practice sessions he runs this year; McLaren holds his F1 rights and could put him in a car. Herta could also potentially run in an FIA-sanctioned winter series to pick up some points.

Michael Andretti, who has petitioned the FIA to expand its grid to add two cars for him to launch a team, said he never bothered to explore potential replacements for Herta on the IndyCar team because he was confident the Super License request would be rejected.

Andretti has been met by severe resistance from existing F1 teams and even F1 itself in his hope to add an 11th team. Andretti could still get on the grid by purchasing an existing team and he’d like to build his program around Herta, who is under contract in IndyCar to Andretti through 2023.