Juncos Hollinger Racing is working to repair Callum Ilott’s No.77 Chevrolet in time for NTT IndyCar Series qualifying after the car sustained damage in a bizarre crash during practice at Long Beach on Saturday morning, and team co-owner Ricardo Juncos is looking for an explanation as to how the incident was able to happen in the first place.
Ilott was launched into the wall at the outside of Turn 5 in the opening minutes of the session when his car bottomed out hard on a piece of curb. While the curb had been in place when teams did their track walk on Thursday, it was damaged during an IMSA session on Friday and removed before IndyCar’s opening practice session later that afternoon.
The curb was put back in place overnight, but according to IndyCar the repair was not communicated to the teams or series prior to Saturday’s session, meaning that most teams were alerted to its existence by seeing Ilott and then ECR’s Rinus VeeKay hit it and crash.
“The damage [to Ilott’s car] is all the front-left corner, the nose is completely (destroyed)… it’s a shame. It’s something that we cannot believe happened,” Juncos told RACER.
“They just have a piece of curb that was not there for practice yesterday, and no one knew about it. It’s hard for the driver to see it from inside the car. So (Callum) did exactly the same line as yesterday, and suddenly he has a springboard into the wall. And then we talk about safety. It’s not right.”
With a broken car and virtually no running on the alternate tires, the incident is a massive blow to JHR’s preparations for qualifying, but Juncos is even more frustrated by what he considers to be a lack of accountability.
“The problem, the frustration, is that it was clearly it was not our fault,” he said. “We could have had a driver injured. We lost a lot of money. And nobody has even come to apologize. Nobody has come to give us an explanation. That’s not right. And there’s nothing I can do about it.
“At this level, it’s unacceptable. Everybody makes mistakes; you should admit it. It’s that simple, and that’s what I was expecting. When we make a mistake, we pay for it — we get penalized, we get DQ’d… every time the team or the driver makes a mistake, we pay for it. This time, whether it’s a mistake by IndyCar or by the track… it’s not a mistake by us, that’s for sure. Maybe it is miscommunication. Whatever. I would like to have someone here to explain it, and we haven’t had that yet.”
Penske Entertainment President and CEO Mark Miles was seen entering the JHR hauler shortly after Juncos’s conversation with RACER.
While he waits for answers, Juncos’s focus is switching to turning the team’s weekend around.
“We made some changes from yesterday on both cars, and unfortunately with Callum, he couldn’t try it,” he said. “But Agustin (Capanino) said the car is really, really nice now. He was 0.6s off P1 with the blacks, and then with the greens we couldn’t even make one lap because of traffic. So today he needs to learn two things — one is the traffic and making the proper gap, and the other one is maximizing the grip on the greens. We had everybody improve by six or seven tenths, so if we put that into consideration we can be P8, P10 with him. So that’s good.”