Each year, one of the biggest additions to the grid in the Verizon IndyCar Series is the champion of the previous year from the Indy Lights series presented by Cooper Tires. For the 2018 season, 2017 Indy Lights champion Kyle Kaiser will bring his $1 million scholarship to IndyCar, as well as Juncos Racing, who he has driven with since 2014.
Kaiser’s journey started in 2003 in the IKF (International Karting Federation), where he would compete in four karting series over a seven-year span. The California native won his first karting title in 2008, while driving in the HPV-1 class. He also won a 3-hour endurance karting event at Sonoma Raceway.
In 2009-2010, Kaiser moved up to Skip Barber Racing School, where he earned Rookie of the Year and finished second in the Western Regional Championship. Continuing on his karting roots, he also earned a partial scholarship with the Skip Barber Racing School.
Kaiser would move on to the Formula Car Challenge with World Speed Motorsports in 2012. He would clinch the series title in dominating fashion, winning eight races and earning a podium finish in 11 of 14 events.
On September 7 of that year, Kaiser would make the jump to professional open-wheel racing, debuting in the Star Mazda Championship at Laguna Seca. World Speed Motorsports would transition with Kaiser to the series full-time for 2013. In 16 races, he finished with three top five and 15 top ten results en route to a seventh-place finish in the season standings.
2014 would see him remain in the Pro Mazda Series, but this time Kaiser would drive for Juncos Racing. After starting the season with top five finishes in five of the first six races, Kaiser notched his first career series win at Sonoma in the penultimate race of the season.
Juncos and Kaiser would make the jump to Indy Lights together for the 2015 season. Kaiser amassed seven top five and 12 top ten finishes, including a runner-up finish at the first race of the season-ending doubleheader at Laguna Seca.
Continuing on the solid 2015 season, Kaiser and Juncos started off strong in the 2016 Indy Lights Series, as Kaiser earned podium finishes at each of the races in the doubleheader on the street course in St. Petersburg, Fla.
A few weeks later, Kaiser earned his first career victory at Phoenix International Raceway. He would also score a victory in the first race of the year-end doubleheader at Laguna Seca, ending the year with three poles, nine top five finishes, 12 top ten finishes and three poles, earning him third in the championship standings.
2017 would mark a third year together for Kaiser and Juncos in the Indy Lights Series. The chemistry between driver and team proved paramount. A sweep of the doubleheader on the street course in Toronto and a win in the second of two races at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course would propel Kaiser to the Indy Lights championship.
With the title, Kaiser earned the coveted million-dollar scholarship to make the move to the Verizon IndyCar Series. After making their debut with Sebastian Saavedra and Spencer Pigot in the 2017 Indianapolis 500, Juncos Racing again partnered with Kaiser.
Kaiser will make his series debut in the no. 32 Dallara-Chevrolet at ISM (Phoenix International) Raceway on April 7. He also will run on the street circuit at Long Beach on April 15, as well as the IndyCar Grand Prix and Indianapolis 500 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway on May 12 and 27.
“I’m very excited to be moving up to the Verizon IndyCar Series with Juncos Racing,” said Kaiser in an October 19 team press release.
“Juncos has been a huge part of my recent success in the Mazda Road to Indy. I have the utmost confidence in Ricardo’s (Juncos) program moving forward and I’m very thankful to everyone involved for making this possible, especially Mazda, Cooper Tires and Dan Andersen for their investment into the Mazda Road to Indy ladder system which will allow me to take the final step towards a career in the Verizon IndyCar Series. Now, I’m just anxious to get behind the wheel as soon as possible!”
Juncos Racing team owner Ricardo Juncos also expressed excitement about the opportunity to reach the Verizon IndyCar Series, and especially doing so with Kaiser.
“This is what our mission is at Juncos Racing, to take drivers to the next level in their career,” exclaimed Juncos in the release. “We began with Kyle in the Pro Mazda series back in 2014 and then took him to the Indy Lights series, where he had three years to grow into the driver he is today. Each season, Kyle showed tremendous progress on and off track. That hard work and dedication paid off this past season with Kyle winning the Indy Lights championship. Now that Kyle has decided to return to the team for his first run in the Verizon IndyCar Series shows his confidence in our organization.
“Kyle and his family have been a part of the Juncos Racing family for a long time and I am thrilled to be a part of this time in his career and look forward to helping him be a successful driver next year in the Verizon IndyCar Series. I want to thank Kyle and his family for continuing to support Juncos Racing and for giving us the opportunity to work with Kyle for our fifth year in a row.”
In their first test together at ISM Raceway on February 8 and 9, Kaiser noted that despite the steep learning curve, things looked promising for the team.
“I’m very happy with my first test in the Verizon IndyCar Series,” said Kaiser in a February 11 team release.
“Coming into this test we had a list of objectives and goals to accomplish and we checked a lot of boxes off that list. We gathered a lot of data to go over so when we come back in April we’ll be ready. It’s a steep learning curve for the team and myself, but if we keep focusing on our program and making consistent progress I’m confident we’ll be competitive come race day. I’m also very grateful to all the guys on the team for making this test possible.
“I know they have been working very hard to get the car ready to run with no issues. Now I’m looking forward to getting back on track in a couple of weeks to build upon the progress we’ve gained here.”
Juncos also noted that while the team still has “a long way to go”, “the test at Phoenix went fantastic for us, we did what we wanted to do.”
Kaiser and teammate Rene Binder are each scheduled to be driving the 32 car for four races this year. With such a small schedule, Kaiser will look to make an impression early and often this season.
Images courtesy of INDYCAR Media.