Race reviewindycar_R1_Mar.05.2023Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg
A compact 1.8-mile circuit in Florida that takes in the streets of downtown St. Petersburg and a section of the runway at Albert Whitted Airport. A track that’s popular with drivers because of its fast and narrow turns, long straightaways and smooth surface.
Race start: 12.00 ET.
March 6, 2023
Team gets its 2023 NTT INDYCAR season off to a flying start with P5 and P12 finishes in Florida
Indianapolis, Indiana March 6, 2023 – Juncos Hollinger Racing (JHR) scored its best-ever results in the NTT INDYCAR SERIES yesterday as Callum Ilott finished P5 and Argentine rookie Agustín Canapino secured P12 at the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg.
The opening race weekend of 2023 gave newly-rebranded and re-energized Juncos Hollinger Racing an opportunity to show its mettle on the St. Pete street circuit that is well known for pushing man and machine to the limit.
Sadly, the opening practice sessions and qualifying runs didn’t return the lap times the team had hoped for. That meant Agustín’s #78 Visit Argentina car started Sunday’s race from P21, just ahead of team-mate Callum in the #77 Dallara-Chevrolet.
With 27 cars battling for position on the narrow St. Pete circuit, the first race of the season proved to be a frenetic encounter, punctuated by five separate caution periods and restarts. But Callum and Agustín worked hard to stay in the thick of the action and continue moving forward.
Building on the valuable experience he gained as a full-season rookie in 2022, Callum finished P5 – only 8.26 seconds behind winner Marcus Ericsson. His result handed JHR its best-ever finish in the category.
And despite having had no previous open-wheel racing experience, Agustín – a multiple Argentine touring car champion – defied the odds to impressively complete his debut INDYCAR race on the lead lap in P12.
Moving from P22 to P5 meant Callum gained more places than any other driver on the grid, a feat that earned the Briton INDYCAR’S ‘Jostens Biggest Mover’ award after the race.
“I managed to keep it clean, avoid the incidents and get some overtakes done”
“P5 really wasn’t what I was expecting. St. Pete was probably one of our weakest races last year so to come in and improve like we have is amazing. We had a tough Saturday, but starting P22 and coming all the way to P5 was great. It wasn’t an easy race and I had to take it fairly easy because there were lots of people making mistakes – especially on the restarts. But I managed to keep it clean, avoid the incidents and get some overtakes done. I’m super happy and big thanks to everyone in the team that did an amazing job.”
“I’m really happy to have finished P12, on the lead lap and with a good pace, especially at the end. For me it was an enormous challenge, more than 2h 30m in the car with huge temperatures and driving the most demanding racing car in the world. I can’t believe how everything came together. I suffered in the restarts with cold tires and with my physical condition, but I’m happy I could manage these things to finish. Massive thanks to the whole team for a fantastic weekend. It’s one I’ll remember for a long time.”
“This was by far the best weekend in the history of our team in INDYCAR”
Ricardo Juncos, JHR team principal and joint owner, said:
“This was by far the best weekend in the history of our team in INDYCAR. It was an outstanding performance by Callum and Agustín.
“Most importantly for me and Brad [Hollinger] as joint team owners, is seeing how hard everyone’s worked since the last race in 2022 to the first race in 2023. It’s been a massive undertaking for everyone. We have a great group of people and we couldn’t be prouder of them. This is the result of everyone working together with the same passion and philosophy. Thanks to all the team members and our sponsors. They make everything possible.
“This is the beginning of a new adventure for Juncos Hollinger Racing and I think the results we’ve taken from St. Pete give us a great platform to establish a very solid racing team.”
Juncos Hollinger Racing also took part in the INDYNXT races at St. Pete. Reece Gold ended the 40-lap in the same position that he started – P8 – while team-mate Matteo Nannini retired after suffering contact on lap 34. He qualified P9 and was classified P15.
Callum and Agustín will next be in action on April 1-2 when the NTT INDYCAR SERIES visits the 1.5-mile Texas Motor Speedway for the PPG 375.