Notes: Kaiser named to drive for Juncos in COTA race

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AUSTIN, Texas – Juncos Racing announced Monday that Kyle Kaiser will return to the team to pilot the No. 32 Chevrolet with sponsorship from NFP at the INDYCAR Classic, the second race of the 2019 NTT IndyCar Series season, on March 24 at Circuit of the Americas.

Kaiser, the 2017 Indy Lights presented by Cooper Tires champion, made his NTT IndyCar Series debut with Juncos last season. He drove in four races with a best finish of 16th place on the streets of Long Beach, California.

NFP, a leading insurance broker and consultant that provides employee benefits, property and casualty, retirement and private client solutions, sponsored Kaiser’s bid last year in the 102nd Indianapolis 500, when he qualified 17th and finished 29th.

“I am excited to be back in an Indy car for the 2019 season with Juncos Racing at COTA,” Kaiser said. “I’m thrilled to have NFP partner with us for this incredible race. I was privileged to get to represent NFP in the Indy 500 last year and had the chance to get to know many of the world-class people working there. Their ambition in the business world is a perfect fit for Juncos’ ambition and drive in racing.”

Kaiser will also participate in INDYCAR Spring Training, the two-day open test for NTT IndyCar Series teams and driver on Tuesday and Wednesday at COTA. He said the INDYCAR Classic is currently the only 2019 race for which he is confirmed but is working on others, with focus on the 103rd Indianapolis 500 presented by Gainbridge and the season-ending Firestone Grand Prix of Monterey.

Juncos Racing has been a powerhouse in the Road to Indy presented by Cooper Tires development ladder and made its NTT IndyCar Series debut in the 2017 Indianapolis 500. The team fielded three drivers last season – Kaiser, Rene Binder and Alfonso Celis Jr. – for a total of 12 races.

“We are humbled and excited to continue our partnership with a prestigious and passionate business like NFP,” team owner Ricardo Juncos said. “Last year we had the privilege to create a relationship with NFP, and since May have continued to build and explore opportunities among our motorsport programs. The partnership is an excellent opportunity to expose our team, NFP’s partners, employees and producers, and the NTT IndyCar Series to wider audience.”

The first day of open testing from COTA will stream live on IndyCar.com, beginning at 11 a.m. ET.

O’Ward, Harding Steinbrenner Racing agree to part ways

Patricio O’Ward, the reigning Indy Lights champion, issued a statement Monday confirming that he will not drive for Harding Steinbrenner Racing in the 2019 NTT IndyCar Series season.

“The Harding Steinbrenner Racing team supported my decision to seek a new opportunity by releasing me from my contract and allowing me the opportunity to find a new team before the start of the 2019 season,” O’Ward said in a released statement. “Now, I am fully focused on finding the right opportunity and how I will use my scholarship from Indy Lights for 2019.”

By winning the 2018 Indy Lights title, O’Ward earned a $1.1 million Mazda scholarship to be used for at least three races in the 2019 NTT IndyCar Series, including the 103rd Indianapolis 500 presented by Gainbridge. The 19-year-old from Monterrey, Mexico, may apply the scholarship funding to a ride with another NTT IndyCar Series team.

O’Ward won nine Indy Lights races last year for Andretti-Steinbrenner Racing before making his NTT IndyCar Series debut in the 2018 season finale, the INDYCAR Grand Prix of Sonoma, where he impressed by qualifying fifth and finishing ninth for Harding Racing.

Gainbridge to sponsor Veach’s No. 26 Honda in 2019

Zach Veach will compete in his second NTT IndyCar Series season with primary sponsorship from Gainbridge, the online financial services platform from Group1001 that sponsored the Ohioan’s rookie season with Andretti Autosport.

Zach VeachThe announcement was made Monday that Veach will drive the No. 26 Gainbridge Honda this season. It comes 10 days after Gainbridge was named presenting sponsor for the 103rd Indianapolis 500.

“Last week, we announced that Gainbridge would be the presenting sponsor of the iconic Indianapolis 500. This week, we are excited to extend our Gainbridge brand to the No. 26 Zach Veach car,” said Andres Barragan, CEO of Group1001. “For Gainbridge, branding the No 26 for all of the 2019 season represents a fantastic opportunity to demonstrate a bold and steady way to continued success. We are extremely excited to have Zach and the No. 26 Gainbridge car represent us in 2019.”

Gainbridge offers products currently available to residents of Indiana, Illinois, Massachusetts and New Jersey, with service expanding to more states in the coming weeks. Veach, who finished 15th in the 2018 standings as an NTT IndyCar Series rookie with five top-10 results, was pleased to continue the relationship with Group1001.

“To be a part of it at such an exciting time, with a company to represent like Gainbridge and Group1001, is very special,” he said. “Gainbridge believes in achieving financial goals through consistency and endurance. And that’s exactly how I approach racing.

“It’s not sheer speed that matters, it is about going fast enough to win, but slow enough to finish and never taking risks or pushing the car any more than needed to be in the right place on the last laps. We like winning, and so does Gainbridge. It's something that lines up perfectly.”

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