Kaiser aims to hop into Indy 500 with 'white rabbit'

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INDIANAPOLIS – Kyle Kaiser stared at his all-white, unsponsored No. 32 Juncos Racing Chevrolet and took a few moments to come up with a creative nickname.

“We can call it the white rabbit. Rabbits are fast, right?” Kaiser said during a break in Tuesday’s first day of practice for the 103rd Indianapolis 500 presented by Gainbridge.

Two sponsors recently discontinued their support, so the team showed up at Indianapolis Motor Speedway for opening day with the white car.

“Hopefully by the end of the week, it will be a different color,” Kaiser said. “That’s my hope. It is fast and I think it will just get faster.”

Team owner Ricardo Juncos is hoping for the same but assured that, regardless of how sponsorship conversations progress, the team has the funds to run in “The Greatest Spectacle in Racing” on May 26.

Kyle Kaiser and Ricardo Juncos“(Kaiser) doesn’t have to worry,” Juncos said. “The same with the whole team. We know we’re going to race, no matter what. We had the money already.

“We have some small deals. We’re about to finish some deals. The car won’t stay all white. It will still be base white but with some logos on it.”

Juncos said he hoped to have additional sponsorship late this week or early next week, then reiterated the team plans to race regardless.

“We’re going to qualify,” he said. “Even if we don’t have (a primary sponsor), we’re going to race. We’ll race with a white car or we’ll race with a car with a few sponsors. But for sure we race. The sponsor situation is not going to affect at all the sports side of the team.”

Kaiser quickly passed his refresher test Tuesday and ranked 21st on Tuesday’s speed chart with a best lap of 226.410 mph on the 2.5-mile oval. A place in the starting field isn’t a given, however. The entry list has 36 car/driver combinations for 33 spots.

The 23-year-old California driver said he’s not dwelling on the business side of this ride. He’s got enough to worry about on track, but he remains self-assured.

“I don't feel like my confidence is contingent on what the car says or what the car looks like,” Kaiser said. “If that was the case, I wouldn't be a very good driver if my driving depended on what color the car was. So I go out there, I do my job, I drive the car as fast as it can go, and I let the business end take care of itself.”

Kaiser made his Indy 500 debut for Juncos Racing last year, when he qualified 17th and finished 29th. A year earlier, the team made its NTT IndyCar series debut when it entered two cars in the race with Sebastian Saavedra finishing 15th and Spencer Pigot 18th.

Juncos blames himself for the sponsorship situation.

“I’ve got to get better with my marketing, I guess,” he said. “We’re the only team without a (primary sponsor), so it’s our fault. We’re doing something maybe not quite right and I’ve got to learn and make it better.

“I had two options, not do it or do it this way and I’ve got to be happy about it, right? It’s difficult, but that’s INDYCAR. We’ve got to make it try and happen somehow.”

Then he flashed a confident smile.

“We always need to smile,” Juncos said. “It’s not over.”

If anyone personifies perseverance, it’s the team owner. The Argentinian couldn’t speak English when he arrived in Miami in 2002 with just $400 in his pocket. In less than a week, he landed a job as a go-kart mechanic.

A dream to build a championship race team that began in 1997 would eventually come true. Juncos Racing celebrated an Indy Pro 2000 presented by Cooper Tires championship with Conor Daly in 2010. Spencer Pigot won Indy Pro 2000 and Indy Lights presented by Cooper Tires titles in 2014 and 2015, respectively.

In 2016, Juncos opened a new $3 million, state-of-the-art headquarters in Speedway, Indiana, blocks from IMS. Victor Franzoni added another Indy Pro 2000 title in 2017, the same year Kaiser claimed the Indy Lights crown.

Kaiser drove in four NTT IndyCar Series races last season and at the INDYCAR Classic at Circuit of The Americas in March. Despite the limited track time, he remained upbeat after climbing out of the “white rabbit.”

“Of course, you have to stay positive,” he said. “When you jump behind the wheel of a car going these speeds, if you think negatively, it’s not going to end very well.

“There’s nothing else I’d rather be doing. I know I’m very fortunate and very lucky to even be out here today. This is what I want to do. I know we could have a really good result here.”

Indy 500 practice continues Wednesday through Friday from 11 a.m.-6 p.m. ET each day. All sessions stream live on INDYCAR Pass on NBC Sports Gold.

Qualifying to set the 33-car field is set for Saturday and Sunday, with coverage split among INDYCAR Pass, NBCSN and NBC. Live coverage of the 103rd Indianapolis 500 begins at 11 a.m. ET Sunday, May 26.

Tickets for all activities at IMS this month are available at IMS.com.

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