An inexperienced driver. A hard-luck team abandoned by its sponsors. A horrific crash that destroyed the whole car at the eleventh hour. And a two-time F1 champion standing between them and a secure spot on the last row of Indy qualifying. For Kyle Kaiser and Juncos Racing, this past week has been like something out of a Hollywood movie — and the final act is just around the corner.
The Juncos Racing story would have been worth a movie even before the Indy miracle. A young man comes to America with $400 in his pocket and a dream of owning a racing team. Sounds impossible — but that was how Ricardo Juncos arrived in Miami seventeen years ago. He started as a go-kart mechanic and hustled his way into the ownership of a small but vibrant team, competing for the Mazda Road To Indy scholarship program. Three years ago, he opened his own full-fledged shop in Speedway, Indiana.
With Kyle Kaiser, a 23-year-old who had a variety of sports-car racing experience, Juncos took the Indy Lights title in 2017. They arrived at Indianapolis this year with modest expectations but plenty of optimism. Then Kaiser hit the wall during practice, shattering the car into hundreds of pieces. Only the engine and right rear suspension survived.
Juncos had a spare car — but it was set up for road-course racing. Could they get it together overnight? They could, and they did, thanks to help from up and down the paddock. When qualifying came, they couldn’t make top 30, so they lined up for the Last Row Shootout, hoping for one of the three remaining spots.
In the Shootout, Kaiser averaged 227.372 miles per hour over four laps. Their primary competition? F1 world champion and 24 Hours of LeMans winner Fernando Alonso, on a quest for racing’s “Triple Crown” and backed by the full force of McLaren. It wasn’t enough. Kaiser beat Alonso by .019 miles per hour.
Yet the drama wasn’t finished, because there was the chance that Juncos would sell their qualifying slot to McLaren and go home. It would have been a smart business decision, particularly given the fact that the team had lost its primary sponsors shortly before practice. Ricardo Juncos put that rumor to rest: “We’re racing next weekend. That’s it.”
This Cinderella story caught our attention here at Hagerty, so we reached out. Our mission to Never Stop Driving matches perfectly with the determination and spirit shown by Kyle Kaiser and the Juncos Racing team — so when you tune in for the Indy 500 this Sunday, you’ll see our new steering-wheel logo next to Kyle’s helmet. It’s our way of showing support for a team that didn’t know when to quit. We’ll be cheering the #32 car to the finish line. If you don’t have a favorite team in the 500 just yet, why not join us?