Ricardo Juncos made the biggest roll of the dice this month at Indy and it paid off big as sophomore IndyCar driver Kyle Kaiser knocked the mighty McLaren Racing team and two-time Formula 1 world champion Fernando Alonso from the field.
With a single 30-minute practice session set aside Sunday morning for the six drivers in IndyCar’s Last Row Shootout to make final adjustments and find any missing speed, the No. 32 Chevy Juncos car was shockingly absent. A car-destroying crash on Friday forced the Juncos team to scramble and prepare a backup chassis for Kaiser which, unlike his primary car, was not capable of performing to the same impressive speed shown prior to the accident.
Slow throughout Saturday’s qualifying session to earn a position in the top 30, Kaiser was one of six drivers relegated to Sunday’s do-or-die qualifying session to earn one of the three remaining spots at the back of the grid.
As Kaiser’s five rivals took full advantage of the invaluable track time, the Californian’s team spent the morning putting finishing touches on the car. Already on the cusp of failing to qualify, the choice to forfeit 30 minutes of chassis tuning seemed to seal Kaiser’s fate before the session began.
Juncos said they had no option but to cede the advantage and hope their work would stand.
“We didn’t have a chance [to practice] because the car wasn’t ready,” he told RACER. “Last night, after [working] 42 hours straight, we had to call it. Because we’re going to end up making mistakes; we were so tired so we sent everybody home to sleep. Then this morning we started early, and we decided not to practice because it wasn’t ready.
“The rain helped a little bit because the last two or three hours we keep looking for details and we keep finding stuff. Probably we wouldn’t be here if not for the extra time we had. I’m so happy for the group of people I have; there’s no words to describe. I’m celebrating my team.”
Running on budgetary fumes with Kaiser’s unsponsored car, Juncos took the high ground when asked if he took pride in bumping a monolithic team from competing in the 2019 Indy 500.
“I’m not focusing on anybody other than ourselves,” he said of McLaren and Alonso. “I feel sorry for the guys that didn’t make it. I said before qualifying, no matter what happens for us it’s a victory to be here today. I never imagined 15 years ago being in this position, so for me I win in life anyway regardless of what happens from now on.”