Ricardo Juncos has never been afraid to reinvent himself.
Whether it’s moving to Miami with little more than pocket change and sleeping on the floor of a go-kart garage, to building a team that knocked out one of the greatest drivers and teams in the world from the Indianapolis 500, all Juncos does is roll up his sleeves and go to work.
His latest project? Taking the “little team that could” and turning them into one of the teams to beat in the NTT IndyCar Series.
It’s a work in progress, of course, and still a ways from completion, but that’s not deterring the guy who always dreams big.
After all, that’s what has gotten the 48-year-old Argentinian this far, and on Sunday (May 28), the Juncos Hollinger Racing team principal will see two of his cars on the grid at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
“He’s an intense guy, and he has his goals, and has an interesting work ethic, and I mean that in a good way,” said Callum Ilott, who is in his second season at JHR. “I saw their intentions, and from there, I loved the people in the team, and the enthusiasm.”
The 24-year-old Ilott was a reserve driver for Alfa Romeo in 2021 when Juncos called him about an IndyCar test, which turned into a three-race audition and then became a full-time ride in 2022. Illott, who finished second to Mick Schumacher in the 2020 Formula 2 standings, is now in his second year with the team.
He recalls that first conversation lasted an hour and Juncos did pretty much all of the talking, but as time went on he became more and more impressed with Juncos and his vision.
“He’s worked from the bottom to the top,” Ilott said. “He’s had a vision and a goal and he’s achieved that, and he’s also impressed a lot of people. He’s earned his spot here.”
“Here” is a long way from Argentina, where Juncos was a second-generation driver who was an accomplished racer in his own right in various racing classes in South America. When the Argentinian economy took a dive in 2001 and his family’s repair shop was closed, Juncos headed to the United States and started over.
Karts became formula cars, and eight years later, Juncos was on a rung of the IndyCar ladder in the Star Mazda (now USF Pro 2000) Series. They won the series title with Conor Daly a year later, and after moving up to Indy Lights (now Indy NXT), Juncos won titles with Spencer Pigot and Kyle Kaiser.
The latter was behind the wheel for one of the biggest stories in Indy 500 history. After crashing in practice on Fast Friday, Kaiser took to the track two days later in Last Row Shootout qualifying. Just 10 miles later, Kaiser and Juncos had knocked McLaren and two-time Formula 1 champion Fernando Alonso from the field.
Four years and a partnership with Brad Hollinger – a former shareholder with the Williams F1 team – later, JHR fields two full-time cars that have combined for four top-12 finishes and placed Ilott and rookie teammate Agustin Canapino 14th and 19th in the season standings, respectively.
On top of his work ethic, Juncos is also very adept and finding and evaluating talent. Ilott was a very good get for the team, and Juncos feels that in Team Penske or Chip Ganassi Racing equipment he could be a championship contender.
In his countryman Canapino, he has a very experienced driver who is a 15-time Argentinian touring car champion. Juncos first put Canapino in a car for the 2019 Rolex 24, running eighth, and came away wanting to work with him in the future.
Driving open wheel cars for the first time, the 33-year-old has shown promise, finishing 12th in his first-ever oval race at Texas, and he’s been solid during the month of May, qualifying solidly in the field in 27th position and posting the sixth-best lap during Carb Day practice with a speed of 236.532 mph.
Canapino’s focus right now is race-by-race and lap-by-lap. He dreams of staying in IndyCar long enough to win races and contend for championships, but knows that there is work involved to get there.
The same can be said for JHR. Juncos’ superpower is that he has an unwavering confidence and commitment to whatever he does. He has an extreme attention to detail paired with a lot of patience; he knows the team can climb up the ranks but they aren’t there yet.
His life hasn’t always been easy, but he also knows that there are no shortcuts.
“INDYCAR is so difficult,” Juncos said. “We are racing against the best in the world and against teams that have a lot of experience … we as a team are learning as we go. We are a young team, so for us it’s just steps that we need to go through. Whatever we do right, we are going to keep doing it, and whatever we do wrong we are going to learn from it and move forward.
“We aren’t a top team, but overall I’m happy with the team, the people and my drivers.”
Talking to Ricardo Juncos is like getting an impromptu motivational speech. He believes in himself, and after talking with him, you’ll believe in him too.
A lot of things go into building a successful IndyCar team, but if anyone can build a team from nothing into a championship contender, it’s Juncos. He’s done it before, and now that he is on one of the biggest racing stages in the world, he’s out to prove he can do it again.
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