Watkins Glen, New York (September 4th, 2017) – Kyle Kaiser claimed the 2017 Indy Lights Championship presented by Cooper Tires this past weekend in the Mazda Watkins Glen Indy Lights Grand Prix presented by Cooper Tires season finale. One lap around Watkins Glen International Raceway secured Kaiser’s championship win along with delivering Juncos Racing their second Indy Lights championship in three years. Juncos Racing also won the Pro Mazda Championship, making them the first team to win both series in the same year in the Mazda Road to Indy ladder series history.
The 2017 Indy Lights season came to an end on the 3.37 mile, 11-Turn road course located in Watkins Glen, New York. The weekend began with two practice sessions followed by qualifying where Kaiser (Los Gatos, California) qualified 10th and teammate Nicolas Dapero (Buenos Aires, Argentina) took the 11th starting position.
The final morning of the championship greeted the field with wet conditions for Round 16. Kaiser driving the #18 Juncos Racing car only needed to complete one lap to ensure his championship win. Multiple battles throughout the field and cars spinning off due to slick conditions continued throughout the 25 lap race. Kaiser spun midway through the race, recovered, and would go on to post a seventh-place finish. Dapero drove the #31 American Brokers Juncos Racing car to an eighth-place finish to end a successful rookie season.
Kaiser’s year paid off with the consistency he established from the first weekend at the Grand Prix of St. Petersburg, Florida. Kaiser earned three poles and three wins, along with five podiums throughout the 16 rounds this year and would only finish outside of the Top-5 four times. The 2017 season marked Kaiser’s fourth year with Juncos Racing, the longest run one driver has had with the team.
By winning the Indy Lights Championship presented by Cooper Tires, Kaiser received the Mazda Scholarship worth close to $1,000,000 which will give him the funds needed to run three races in the Verizon IndyCar series, including the Indianapolis 500, next year.
“This season has been so incredible,” said Kaiser. “I’m extremely thankful to the team for giving me this opportunity and developing me into a champion over the past four seasons. For Juncos to win both the Pro Mazda and Indy Lights championship in the same year is an incredible feat, and it is very well deserved. It’s been great to celebrate and reflect over this accomplishment, but I know now it the time to get to work harder than I ever have so I can make an impression in the IndyCar Series. Thanks again to Mazda and Cooper Tires for making this scholarship program possible. I’m looking forward to the coming weeks to start planning for the upcoming season.”
Dapero, ended a successful rookie season in the Indy Lights series recording one Top-5 and nine Top-10’s.
“This weekend was another learning weekend for me,” said Dapero. “This was my first time at this track and we had a tough time trying to get the most out of the car for qualifying. After that we had rain for the race, which was my first time to run in rain in the Indy Lights car. I fought with the car the entire race and was able to move up to finish eighth. A lot of positive things to take from this season into next year. I want to thank all of Juncos Racing for all of their hard work.”
Team Owner Ricardo Juncos said “This year was just amazing. We did everything right from the mechanics and crew members, our engineer Ernie (Ernesto Gonella), and both of our drivers Kyle (Kaiser) and Nico (Dapero). When we jumped into the Indy Lights series with Kyle we knew it would be close to a three-year development, because the 2015 season was too early for him and we planned it that way, to get him three solid years in the series. To win the championship with Kyle really shows what we are able to do within our Driver Development Program. Winning the Indy Lights championship says even more, because this is a very hard championship to win. It always comes down to three or four drivers in the final race. However, we were able to come into this weekend only needing to start the race to win the championship because we showed great consistency throughout the season. Kyle has a great future ahead of him. I would like to thank Kyle for dedicating four years to our program and showing what we do best at Juncos Racing. I would also like to thank Kyle’s family for all of their support throughout this time.”
“Nico (Dapero) is on the same path as Kyle,” said Juncos. “He jumped into the Indy Lights series with not much experience after only one season in the Pro Mazda series and previously only running in karting series. He was moved into the Indy Lights series early, but he was able to show great results and able to learn a lot this year. He made some great moves in difficult situations on track and even proved to be one of the fastest cars on track at times running in the Top-3 in speed. Nico has a great future ahead of him as well. I am looking forward to working with him again next year and to start winning some races, hopefully even the championship. I would like to thank Nico and his family for giving us the chance to be a part of his career and to continuing our success into the 2018 season with him.”
The 2017 season proved to be the most intense year for Juncos Racing as they entered into the ninth season in the Pro Mazda and third season in the Indy Lights series, along with putting together a new two car Verizon IndyCar program for the 101st Running of the Indianapolis 500.
The team would prove from the start that they would continue their focus on both Mazda Road to Indy programs, by collecting multiple podiums and race wins in both series. Juncos Racing ended the year winning both the Pro Mazda and Indy Lights championship, the first team to do so in the same season in the history of the Mazda Road To Indy ladder series.
“Our Driver Development Program is the staple and mission of Juncos Racing,” said Juncos. “We take these kids and give them the tools and knowledge they need to be successful in their racing careers. Our goal is to move these drivers up in a pace that will only bring them success. Kyle Kaiser is proof of this success by now being the Indy Lights Champion. Nico is on the same path as Kyle and I know he will have great success next season. I am looking forward to next year and l am confident we will be successful as a team through our hard work and dedication.”