“We’re going to fill them with pizza and ice cream until they’re done,” said Juncos Racing engineer Tom Brown.
The heartwarming story of the week, with the little sponsorless one-car team trying to fight its way into the Indianapolis 500, took an ugly turn early on “Fast Friday” when sophomore driver Kyle Kaiser took the wrong line through Turn 3 and destroyed most of his No. 32 Chevy.
Set for an all-nighter to prepare a spare chassis for Kaiser when pre-qualifying practice begins at 8:00 a.m., Brown and team owner Ricardo Juncos will make sure their mechanics are as well-fed and happy as possible while facing daunting odds to make it into the field of 33.
Where the Juncos story takes on a unique dimension is in the personnel who are helping to overcome the inopportune adversity. With additional teams in IMSA’s WeatherTech SportsCar Championship and the junior open-wheel Road To Indy categories, a sea of Juncos crew members have descended upon Gasoline Alley to pitch in.
“By the time we got back from pit lane, all of the IMSA DPi guys, the Indy Pro 2000 guys, the Indy Lights guys — they dropped what they were doing at the shop and were on their way here with the spare car, new suspension … ” Brown said. “We’re blessed to have a team like that where everybody chips in. There’s no drama. We need to get the car back on track for Saturday morning, and these guys have the right spirit to do it.”
The challenge presented to Brown and Kaiser comes with converting the car used on the Circuit of The Americas road course for superspeedway performance. Juncos said the spare chassis has a fitted set of speedway bodywork, which will help it cut through the air, but all of the work put into reducing friction with the wheel bearings and the multitude of bearings in the gearbox will make the replacement No. 32 Chevy less efficient while lapping the 2.5-mile oval.
In simple terms, the impressive speed shown by Kaiser in the primary car will be tough to match in the backup chassis.
“It’s tough when you lose your primary car,” Brown said. “The second car is not a bad car by any means, but it’s not the one we have loved on for weeks and months. We need to work on the mechanical drag of the car. We can’t do much with the aerodynamic drag, but we need to get the mechanical drag the best we can.”
If there’s a positive piece of news to share, it’s the strong reaction to seeing the all-white No. 32 running well ahead of bigger and more successful teams prior to the crash. Although Juncos declined to acknowledge the total dollar amount, more than two dozen companies are said to have called and concluded deals to sponsor the car.
“It’s going to be a lot more difficult than if we’d still had the primary car,” Brown added. “But we’re going to go out there tomorrow, Kyle’s going to stand on the gas, and we’ll do our damn best to make it into the show.”