Canapino IndyCar ‘gamble’ is paying off for Ricardo Juncos

MID-OHIO SPORTS CAR COURSE, UNITED STATES OF AMERICA - JULY 02: #78: Agustín Canapino, Juncos Hollinger Racing Chevrolet at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course on Sunday July 02, 2023 in Troy Township, United States of America. (Photo by Gavin Baker / LAT Images)
MID-OHIO SPORTS CAR COURSE, UNITED STATES OF AMERICA - JULY 02: #78: Agustín Canapino, Juncos Hollinger Racing Chevrolet at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course on Sunday July 02, 2023 in Troy Township, United States of America. (Photo by Gavin Baker / LAT Images)

Agustin Canapino matched his career-best IndyCar result on Sunday in Toronto, and his run to 12th wasn’t the only recent highlight produced by the rookie from Argentina. He was fast as well at the previous race in Mid-Ohio, which gives his Juncos Hollinger Racing team co-owner Ricardo Juncos plenty of optimism for where the No. 78 Chevy program is headed.

“He keeps learning and he feels much better every time we race,” Juncos told RACER. “Much better than (Canapino’s round one debut at) St. Pete for example. That was a first street course for him and now he is obviously better everywhere. Pit stops were good as well. We work in many, many different areas to try to keep making things better, right, and with Agustin, we are really happy.”

The 15-time Argentinian touring car champion is not only new to open-wheel racing, but is also racing at every track on the NTT IndyCar Series calendar for the first time. Canapino carries a wealth of racing experience with him to this new challenge alongside young teammate Callum Ilott, but he’s still the least experienced driver in this form of motorsports.

Learning from a lifelong open-wheeler like Ilott has clearly been beneficial, and with his teammate as a benchmark, qualifying 21st at Mid-Ohio to Ilott’s 20th, and 18th to Ilott’s 16th at Toronto suggests the 33-year-old IndyCar novice is making rapid progress after his first 10 races.

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“Even for the very first test at Thermal Club for the Spring Training, he surprised everybody and that’s the reason why we wanted him to drive for us,” Juncos said. “But it was a big gamble. For us as a team, for me and for Brad Hollinger, and for Agustin, also … because obviously everything is good for him in Argentina, and for him to make this decision to come here was a big risk. But we took it together.

“And I think we just keep improving. Maybe because he’s 33 years old, he’s even better for IndyCar because he’s obviously talented, and now he has a maturity to understand the ovals and the situations at the other circuits maybe better than someone else.”

Although the funding to keep Canapino in the car for 2024 and beyond has yet to be solidified, continuing next season is his team owner’s goal.

“I’m really happy and I’m gonna try my best to keep him for next year,” Juncos confirmed. “At the moment, we really don’t know, but I’m going to try my best to continue.”

Canapino is on the road to making that budget number easier to hit after moving up the No. 78 car up to 22nd in the Entrants’ championship. At the season’s completion, the top 22 cars in the Entrant’s standings receive a guaranteed prize money contract worth nearly $1 million, and if Canapino can continue moving forward in the championship and avoid being on the bubble, a nice piece of the $6 million or more needed to run a car for the year should be at JHR’s disposal.

“So that’s good for us, and obviously, the goal is to be inside the top 22,” Juncos said. “For next year, that will help a lot for him in his situation with the budget, but it’s still a long way to go. So I think we just need to keep doing what we’re doing and every race we’re just gonna get better and better. But you never know, because IndyCar is so difficult.”

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