The Greatest Spectacle in Racing can’t have the storied Field of 33 without 33 entries. Problem solved. From the Juncos Racing release:
“I am pleased to announce that Sebastian Saavedra will drive the No. 17 AFS/ Juncos Racing in the 101st running of the Indianapolis 500,” said Juncos Racing owner Ricardo Juncos. “Sebastian’s IndyCar oval and Indy 500 experience will be an asset for our team especially considering that this will be our first year at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
“I want to thank AFS owner and co-entrant of the AFS/Juncos Racing car, Gary Peterson, for making this relationship possible. Gary also has a lot of experience at the Speedway which I know will be helpful to our effort. I also want to thank the management of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, the Verizon IndyCar Series and Chevrolet for their advice and support as we embark on this adventure.”
Saavedra, who has been known to sport some of the most dynamite hair in racing, has a longtime relationship with AFS team owner Gary Peterson that dates back to at least 2009, which was the then-teenage Saavedra drove for AFS in Indy Lights. Saavedra’s teammate that year? JR Hildebrand, who finished as the series champion. Since then the Columbian made 60 starts from 2010 to 2015 for (brace yourselves) Bryan Herta Autosport, Conquest Racing, Andretti Autosport, Dragon Racing, KV Racing, and Chip Ganassi Racing. So, pretty much everyone has had a good look at his driving. And his hair.
Not so coincidentally, the day before Juncos also announced the 32nd entry would be former Juncos driver and current Ed Carpenter Racing right-turn specialist Spencer Pigot:
“I am personally very happy to be able to formally announce that Spencer (Pigot) will be driving for Juncos Racing in the 101st running of the Indianapolis 500,” said Juncos Racing owner Ricardo Juncos. “As most people know Spencer started with our team in 2003 driving Karts. We reunited in 2014 and won the Pro Mazda Series championship then Spencer helped us win the Indy Lights team championship in 2015. This is, hopefully, the next step in our successful relationship together.
“I want to thank Ed Carpenter for allowing Spencer to take advantage of this opportunity. I also have to thank Oceanfront Recovery and Rising Star Racing for their support as well as Chevrolet for supplying the power and durability that our team will need to successfully compete in the Indy 500.”
The Juncos team is comprised largely of the equipment from and some of the staff of the artists formerly known as KV Racing Technology, and the team has expressed a very clear intention to join the Indycar field for the full season in 2018. Given that he has won championships in two series with Juncos, Pigot would be considered a frontrunner to drive one a Juncos entry, no? After all, it’s not like he went through the Mazda Road to Indy so he could sit out ovals. Heck, in 2014 he won a race at THE Milwaukee Mile, so the potential is there.
As many diehards will note, this is still only 33 entries, which means that unless some new team magically appears in the next few weeks then bump day will have no bumping. Considering an Indy-only entry looks to be running this year in the neighborhood of $1.2 million, it’s probably a safe bet to say this year will be bump free. And even if some would-be Entry 34 did have that kind of cash, it’s very likely that Honda and Chevy would give a thumbs down to using another motor for what could potentially be a non-qualifier. Such is life in the age of spec racing, but it’s still good news to the likes of Sage Karam, Buddy Lazier, Pippa Mann, and Zach Veach.
But the lack of a 34th (or 35th, etc) gets some people grouchy because Bump Day back in the day was an indeed event worth watching. But not long ago so were new episodes of “American Idol”, so like Bump Day they are largely a thing of the past. And in both cases much of the drama was borne from the cringing at the misfortune those contestants who weren’t quite up to the level required to match their competitors. Most recently at Indy this has meant “Buddy Lazier”, and really, what kind of person wants to watch an Indy 500 winner like Lazier suffer humiliation?
(“This isn’t going to transition to an Eddie Cheever hot take in the next paragraph, is it?” – The Spotter)
Final Lap: Just a few days ago, Ricardo Juncos was lamenting that he didn’t have any drivers signed because he couldn’t pay for crash insurance. What happens if Pigot or Saavedra accidentally puts a car solidly into the wall before the race?