By Christopher DeHarde, Staff Writer
LONG BEACH, California– Juncos Racing has had a tough time getting settled in its first season in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship but Saturday’s BUBBA Burger Grand Prix at Long Beach gave the team their first taste on the positive side of things.
The No. 50 Cadillac DPi started 10th in the 11 car class but used a one pit stop strategy to vault them into the lead during a full course yellow period. After the No. 55 Mazda DPi came to a stop on track and the race’s final full course yellow came out, Kyle Kaiser kept the Cadillac on track while everybody else stopped for Michelin tires and fuel.
“It was a really tough scenario because the guys behind us had new tires and I was on really old tires because those were the tires we qualified on so it was really tough but we were pushing super hard,” said Kaiser.
Kaiser managed to keep the lead after the green came out and actually managed to gap the field a little bit with older tires.
“We thought we were going to be struggling and everyone was going to pass us but Kyle did an amazing job and pulled away,” said team owner Ricardo Juncos. “That was good to see that we just took the lead by the strategy but also we were able to pull away.”
When Owen was in the car, the former Road to Indy driver for Juncos Racing had his hands full trying to keep Pipo Derani behind him. Derani was in what was perhaps the fastest car in the race but a loose tire during a pit stop delayed the Brazilian and made him charge hard toward Owen.
Late in the race, Owen nudged the tire barrier after Derani made Owen considered to be a late move in Turn 8. Owen was stationary for some time then was moving again.
“We didn’t touch, I was on the inside line,” said Derani. “I think he ran wide and hit the wall but yeah, I don’t know. Really, we didn’t touch so I have nothing to do with it.”
Owen saw things differently.
“Once I moved back to mid track I didn’t think he was going to go for it,” said Owen. “I didn’t drive all the way to the inside and he dove for a gap that was very small. I think there was a little bit of contact, nothing significant at all. There was just a small scratch on the back of our car, that might’ve been what sent me into an oversteer, I’m not really sure.
“I think racing for sixth place, okay, you know you’re faster, you’re going to probably get past, like you have to do it that way? You know, like you have to do a move that could probably end both of our races and if I hadn’t moved out of the way, pretty good chance we both could’ve crashed. So I’m not really super upset, it’s just not very smart driving when you’re racing for sixth. Just do it in a cleaner, better way. There would’ve been more time. If I hadn’t moved, we both probably would’ve been in the wall, I would’ve gotten spun, he might’ve gotten away from it.”
Owen still recovered to finish seventh after having started tenth.
The next IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship race is the Acura Sports Car Challenge at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course on the weekend of May 3rd-5th.