St. Petersburg, Florida (March 11, 2018) – Juncos Racing claimed the first two wins, along with two more podium finishes in the double header season opener of the 2018 Pro Mazda Championship Presented by Cooper Tires this past weekend on the streets of St. Petersburg. Rinus VeeKay picked up both wins, while teammates Robert Megennis and Carlos Cunha earned podium finishes in the Pro Mazda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg Presented by Allied Building Products.
The 2018 Pro Mazda Championship kicked off on the 1.8 mile, 14-Turn street course located in downtown St. Petersburg, Florida.
The weekend began on a successful note for the 2017 Pro Mazda reigning champions Juncos Racing when they topped the speed charts during the first practice session with Brazilian Carlos Cunha. Teammate Rinus VeeKay followed recording the second fastest time overall and Robert Megennis finished the session in 10th.
After a successful practice session, qualifying for Round 1 did not go as planned for the three-car Juncos Racing team as Carlos Cunha (Campinas, Brazil) qualified fourth and Robert Megennis (New York, New York) took the fifth starting position. Rinus VeeKay (Hoofddorp, Netherlands) was delayed getting on track for the start of the session due to fuel pressure issues and had to settle for the eighth starting position.
Juncos Racing found their momentum the following morning during qualifying for Round 2, when VeeKay driving the No. 2 Jumbo/Juncos Racing car, delivered the team their first pole for the season. Cunha driving the No. 1 CarlosCunha.com.br/Juncos Racing car took the fifth position and Megennis driving the No. 9 Palo Alto Networks/Juncos Racing car would start eighth.
Round 1 of the 2018 Pro Mazda Championship proved to be a crowd pleaser and strong showing for the Juncos Racing team. After an intense battle for the lead, Netherlands native VeeKay claimed the first win of the season after taking the lead with six laps to go. Megennis, who started eighth, was able to battle his way through the field, to join VeeKay on the podium by recording a third place finish. Teammate Cunha made some incredible passes throughout the race, and was able to finish just off the podium in fourth.
Juncos Racing carried the strong momentum into Round 2, after a dramatic start. The green flag waived early due to a technical issue for the 16 car field, which caused an unfortunate chain reaction, and put Megennis out of the race due to contact. The red flag was then waived, and all cars were shuffled to the original starting positions. VeeKay retook the pole position and went on to lead the entire race, claiming his second victory of the weekend. Cunha was able to battle his way up, to pick up his first podium of the season, taking third.
Team Owner Ricardo Juncos was thrilled with the team’s results after unforeseen setbacks, and long hours during preseason testing.
“This weekend was incredible for the team after all of the challenges we had to face the past month,” said Juncos. “Each driver and team member really delivered despite issues we have faced. Rinus (VeeKay) was very impressive and showed a lot this weekend after issues we have been facing. He maintained his focus and was able to capture both wins of the weekend. Robert (Megennis) had his share of difficulties as well, but was able to make some great passes in Round 1 to move up to the podium for the finish. It is unfortunate he did not have the same chance in Round 2, but I am confident he will be back on the podium in Barber next month. Carlos (Cunha) had a great weekend overall. He started off fastest in practice and was able to earn a podium in Round 2 and even set the fastest lap during the race. In Race 1 Carlos was pushed out on the corner at the start and dropped back to ninth. He (Carlos) was able to finish forth after a great battle and showed a lot of talent by passing drivers on the outside lines many times. I want to thank everyone from our talented drivers and their families, to this crew for all of the hard work they have put into this season. We will continue to keep our focus as we head into the next rounds and look forward to a great season!”
Carlos Cunha No. 1 CarlosCunha.com.br/Juncos Racing: “We had a great first practice session and learned a lot about our set up for the race. I am really happy how this weekend went even though we did not get the qualifying positions we hoped for. We have a great car and a great crew and we will continue to improve as the season progresses. I am happy for my teammate Rinus (VeeKay) for his wins and for Robert (Megennis) as well in Round 1. We have a long road ahead of us, but we will have a great season if we continue to keep this pace.”
Rinus VeeKay No. 2 Jumbo/Juncos Racing: “It was a great weekend overall. It started off a little shaky after some setting and engine issues. Between the Juncos Racing crew, Elite Engines and Cosworth were able to figure out what issues we had and get them resolved. After winning both races I could not ask for anything more. We picked up a lot of points and I hope to keep this going. I want to thank everyone on the team, my family, and Elite Engines for getting me on track after all of the hard times we faced. I also want to thank my trainer Raun Grobben for keeping me in shape and prepped for every session so I do not get tired. I have some incredible sponsors to thank Jumbo and La Place for all of their support.”
Robert Megennis No. 9 Palo Alto Networks/Juncos Racing: My first weekend of the 2018 Pro Mazda Championship was a weekend of highs and lows. Had a fantastic Race 1 with a P3 and my first Pro Mazda podium. Had a DNF in Race 2 because of a ridiculous false start due to an early green flag that resulted in chaos, contact, a red flag, and total restart. My race was finished with a punctured brake line that was unfixable before the restart. It’s an understatement that I am incredibly disappointed in leaving St. Pete with an unacceptable end to what should have been a great weekend. Juncos Racing gave me a fantastic car and I’m frustrated that I couldn’t put it on the podium again for my team and sponsors. I can’t thank the team and Palo Alto Networks enough for all of the hard work and support. It’s just the beginning of the season, and the team and I will focus on our next race weekend. Let’s go to Barber!
The 2018 Pro Mazda Championship continues next month April 19 – 22nd with Rounds 3 and 4 at Barber Motorsport Park.