By Christopher DeHarde, Staff Writer
LONG BEACH, California– Juncos Racing is only participating in their third race in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship but the team is learning with leaps and bounds ahead of Saturday’s BUBBA Burger Sports Car Grand Prix of Long Beach.
The Ricardo Juncos-led squad may have been 11th out of 11 cars in the Daytona Prototype International (DPi) class but the No. 50 Cadillac DPi was only 1.005 seconds off of the pace set by Felipe Nasr in the No. 31 Action Express Racing Cadillac DPi.
Kyle Kaiser and Will Owen were tapped to drive this weekend. For Kaiser, this is one of two home races for the Santa Clara native and Kaiser is adamant that the team is moving forward despite challenges faced at Daytona and Sebring.
“I think the progress has been really good,” said Kaiser. “I think the last couple of races we’ve found some of the mechanical weaknesses in the car so I think they figured out a lot of that stuff that was causing some of the issues we had so I think that’s really good.”
Being just over a second slower than the fastest car in the field after a two-hour Friday morning practice session speaks to the competitiveness of the DPi class and the 2017 Indy Lights presented by Cooper Tires champion was happy with the car’s performance despite where the car ended up on the time sheet.
“The balance actually felt really good,” said Kaiser. “When we were in the car we were toward the top of the time sheets when I got in earlier and I think the track changed and there were some things we were still sorting out setup-wise. But I’m actually really happy with the balance and looking forward to getting a little more track time later this afternoon. I think we’ll have a pretty good car.”
Kaiser has driven at Long Beach before in Indy Lights and in NTT IndyCar Series competition. Despite the open wheel experience, there is a lot of adjustment to do to prepare to drive a car with an offset cockpit and a roof and fenders.
“It’s a really big difference the first five laps was acclimation,” said Kaiser. “I mean, getting your brake points, you’re doing a lot of stuff at the same time but getting the visuals, getting everything to feel comfortable is number one.
“It’s good that I have the track knowledge and know the track well so I can kind of start pushing. I know where the track goes and how you can push the limits so I felt like after the first run I felt pretty comfortable. Definitely something to learn but I’m glad I ran Daytona because at least I’m familiar with the car a little bit.”
Qualifying for the BUBBA Burger Sports Car Grand Prix of Long Beach is at 4:45 pm PT, 7:45 pm ET.