Juncos

Exclusive: Juncos returns to Indy Lights in 2023

The 2023 Road to Indy season promises to be a fresh start for Juncos Hollinger Racing and TJ Speed Motorsports, as both teams take on new challenges.

By Jeroen Demmendaal

The Indy Lights paddock is set to be a little bit greener again in 2023, as Juncos Hollinger Racing will return to Indy Lights next year after a one-year absence and plans to field two full-time entries. As a result, it will have two cars in Indy Lights and two full-time entries in the NTT IndyCar Series as of 2023. The flip side, however, is that Juncos Hollinger has decided to leave Indy Pro 2000.

This is where TJ Speed Motorsports comes in. The team, owned by veteran race engineer Tim Neff, will leave Indy Lights but has agreed to take over Juncos Hollinger’s two-car Indy Pro 2000 operation. On top of that, TJ Speed also plans to enter USF2000 in 2023 with at least two cars, representing a significant expansion of its Road to Indy activities.

The new constellation means that for the first time since 2009, Juncos Hollinger will not compete in Indy Pro 2000 and its predecessor, Pro Mazda. It’s the end of an era for the team owned by Ricardo Juncos and Brad Hollinger, in which it won four driver titles as well as multiple team championships.

Juncos Hollinger is still searching for a driver for the second full-time IndyCar, and it is known to have a broad group of candidates on its radar. That group includes Indy Lights champion Linus Lundqvist and Lights runner-up Sting Ray Robb, Formula 2 aces Marcus Armstrong and Juri Vips, as well as Argentinian touring car champion Agustin Canapino.

A proven pathway

Speaking to F1 Feeder Series, Neff said he and TJ Speed are excited to get involved with Indy Pro 2000 and USF2000 in 2023. “We’ve had a character-building year in Indy Lights and are doing very well in Formula Regional Americas. Now we’re excited to get going in Indy Pro and USF2000 next year. The Road to Indy is a proven pathway for young drivers who want to get to IndyCar and we’ve got some promising talent on our radar already.”

Neff was also complementary towards Ricardo Juncos and Brad Hollinger. “Ricardo and Brad have been very successful in Indy Pro 2000 in recent years and have created a great team and platform for us to build on. I couldn’t imagine a better starting point as we take TJ Speed into the series.”

A spokesperson for Juncos Hollinger Racing did not respond to a request for comment.

Eventful season

The new plans follow on an eventful 2022 for both teams on the Road to Indy. Juncos Hollinger Racing decided to pull out of Indy Lights competition after a difficult 2021, which saw both Toby Sowery and Sting Ray Robb struggle all season. Sowery even left the team prematurely, frustrated with a lack of results.

Instead, for 2022 the outfit focused on its maiden full-time NTT IndyCar Series season with star-in-waiting Callum Ilott, while continuing to field two cars in Indy Pro 2000 for 18-year-old Floridian Reece Gold and 22-year-old Pakistani driver Enaam Ahmed.

Both campaigns were reasonably successful, with Ilott a competitive rookie, Reece Gold finishing runner-up in Indy Pro 2000 with four victories and Juncos Hollinger winning the Indy Pro team championship. F1 Feeder Series understands that Gold will now graduate to Indy Lights with Juncos Hollinger in 2023, and a formal announcement is expected shortly.

Started with ambition

As for TJ Speed, it started its maiden Indy Lights season with a lot of ambition. The campaign was to some extent built around young Cayman Islands driver Kyffin Simpson, who won the 2021 Formula Regional Americas championship with TJ Speed and also competed in Indy Pro 2000 last year with Juncos Hollinger Racing.

The partnership soon fell apart, however, as F1 Feeder Series reported exclusively this summer. The driver, his family backers and the team grew increasingly disillusioned with how the 2022 season progressed and after the Mid-Ohio weekend, Simpson decided to leave TJ Speed and move over to HMD Motorsports.

While that switch produced little in terms of improved results for Simpson, the departure of the Simpsons meant that TJ Speed lost its main backer for the Lights operation. The team skipped the last three races of the 2022 season and is now in the process of selling all its Lights equipment.

Tim Neff, meanwhile, joined the engineering staff at Abel Motorsports for the last few races of 2022 and oversaw an improvement in performances and results for Jacob Abel. The American finished the season with three straight top-five finishes.

Header photo credit: Juncos Hollinger Racing

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