|The Mazda Road to Indy presented by Cooper Tires has been the standard bearer when it comes to successfully developing driving talent and progressing it up the open-wheel ladder until eventually landing in the Verizon IndyCar Series.
The three levels of the stepladder, formally gathered under the MRTI umbrella and sanctioned by INDYCAR since 2010, have helped produce no fewer than 15 current Verizon IndyCar Series drivers. Among them are six former Indy Lights presented by Cooper Tires champions.
The newest addition in the “stepladder to success” story comes in the form of a team, Juncos Racing. A winner of seven MRTI championships and 41 races since joining the development ladder in 2009, the team announced Tuesday that it would take the next step by entering this year’s Indianapolis 500 presented by PennGrade Motor Oil.
The announcement was welcome news for Jay Frye, INDYCAR’s president of competition and operations.
“We certainly have been watching them the last couple years,” Frye said. “They were certainly one of the teams that we thought had the ability or the capability of doing this.
“If you look at their history – seven championships, 41 wins, 45 poles – they certainly know how to get it done,” Frye continued. “I think it was very cool they had an opportunity and Ricardo jumped on it here recently, which is great, because the legacy of the KV Racing Technology team is continuing, which is important. One of our goals is to get new owners and new young teams to come into the Verizon IndyCar Series.”
Team founder and principal Ricardo Juncos said driver, sponsor and equipment announcements will be forthcoming. He emphasized that the team will continue its efforts in developing talent in the Mazda Road to Indy. Juncos Racing will field Nicolas Dapero and Kyle Kaiser in Indy Lights this season.
“It’s important because it’s what we’ve been doing for many years,” said Juncos. “We have this driver development program inside the team. All the drivers compete with us, which is very intense. We are getting better at that program over the years.
“In order to have the program and development, we need the series; we need the Pro Mazda, USF2000 and Indy Lights. I’m always in favor of that. I think having the Indy car team is going to be a plus for our other teams, Indy Lights, for example, which is one step before. For the current Indy Lights drivers, they are so excited about the Indy car because that’s the future for them. So I think it’s a plus in that sense.”