St. Petersburg, Florida (March 14, 2016) – The Pro Mazda Championship Presented by Cooper Tires opened up the 2016 season this past weekend with Rounds 1 and 2 of the Allied Building Products Grand Prix of St. Petersburg. The 2015 Pro Mazda reigning champions Juncos Racing took to the field with returning drivers Garett Grist and Will Owen, along with rookies Nicolas Dapero and Jake Parsons. The four car lineup picked up one Top-5 finish in back to back green flag races.

The weekend kicked off with two practice sessions on the 1.8 mile, 14-Turn street course located in downtown St. Petersburg, Florida. Juncos Racing struggled to get all four cars into the Top-5 in times in both practice and qualifying. Jake Parsons driving the #00 Smart Minds Institute car qualified sixth in his first qualifying effort in the Mazda Road to Indy ladder series. Teammates Will Owen and Garett Grist qualified seventh and eighth, while rookie Nicolas Dapero took the 10th starting position.

Round 1 of the Pro Mazda Championship went green the entire length of the 33 lap race. Canadian Garett Grist driving the #5 Lander Property Management/Mac Tools car finished just outside the Top-5 in sixth. Jake Parsons took eighth and Will Owen, pilot of the #23 AMR car took ninth. Rookie Nicolas Dapero finished 10th behind the wheel of the #31 Federal Seguros car in his first Pro Mazda series race.

Round 2 mirrored Round 1 going green again for the entire 33 laps. Juncos Racing rookie Jake Parsons picked up a Top-5 finish, taking fifth. Teammate Will Owen improved to finish sixth and Garett Grist took eighth. Nicolas Dapero ended his day in 10th.

Team Principle, Ricardo Juncos is confident the team will bounce back to the front of the field as the season progresses.

“Even though we didn’t get the results we hoped for, all of the hard work that this team put into this weekend deserved more than the results we received,” said Juncos. “I am very pleased with the improvements by all drivers and their dedication and commitment into improving their skills on track. The team worked extremely hard especially when the #23 car had to have an unexpected engine change. We discovered this right before the first practice session and were able to get the car back on track later that day for the final practice session. I cannot thank the crew enough for all of the work they have put into the past few weeks on the road. We have a long way to go and I know we will focus in order to get back to the front of the field. I’m looking forward to our next event at Barber Motorsports Park where we have had much success over the past years.”

Driver Quotes:
Nicolas Dapero (Buenos Aires, Argentina): “It was a really good weekend for me at my first race of the year. I am pleased with what we were able to accomplish on my first street course and I know we will continue to work hard to get better results. I’m looking forward to getting back on track next month at Barber. I really want to thank all at Juncos Racing for the great job they did. No doubt that we will work hard to make it better for the rest of the season!”
Garett Grist (Grimsby, Ontario, Canada): “Tough weekend to open up the year here in St. Pete. It’s a track that I haven’t had a great record at and I thought this year we would be able to turn that around. We were off in qualifying, which doesn’t help on a track like this. During the first race I was able to pass a couple of guys on the outside on the start and stayed there the rest of the race. In the second race I finished where I started. You know you’re struggling when you can’t see the Top-3 anymore upfront. We have a lot of work to do and go back to see where we missed and where we can improve.”
Will Owen (Castle Rock, Colorado, USA): ““It was a fairly successful weekend overall at St. Pete. We didn’t get the results we were looking for, but we showed a lot of speed and a lot of promise. We know it’s going to be a tough, competitive year and we know what we need to do better at in qualifying in order to put these cars up front. The races went well and I am pleased with my progress since last season in my skills on track. I learned a lot in New Zealand over the winter and I was able to put this knowledge to use on track. I made one of the only passes in Round 2 and was a lot more aggressive than I have been in previous years. I have to say thanks to all of the guys on the team, we had some engine trouble at the
beginning of the weekend and it was looking grim. The team worked extremely hard to change the engine out and we were able to make it out for the second practice that same day. I trust that these guys will always work hard to make the car better and help me improve myself as well. I think we will have great results the rest of the season even though we got off to a slow start!
Jake Parsons (Melbourne, Australia): “I had a pretty exciting first event in the Mazda Road to Indy series. Practice went well, especially for being my first time here on the streets of St. Petersburg. From the start we were up there, we had a great baseline from the first run and from there we just tried to refine my driving and refine the set up. Qualifying was a challenge, starting sixth for both races. The first race was really exciting, being my first race in the United States. I finished eighth and it was a challenging race. We had a lot to think about after the first race and we all worked really hard as a team collectively. We came back strong for Round 2 and were able to move up to fifth. I’m stoked! I gave everything I had out there and the guys gave me a great car. We still have a lot of work to do, but will keep pushing forward.”

The Pro Mazda Championship Presented by Cooper Tires returns next month at Barber Motorsports Park for Rounds 3 and 4 April 23rd – 24th, 2016. For more information please visit juncosracing.com and promazdachampionship.com