Will Owen says last weekend’s Bubba Burger Sports Car Grand Prix at Long Beach came as a “turning point” for Juncos Racing after a challenging start to its maiden IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship campaign.
The veteran open-wheel outfit, in its first year of sports car racing, encountered a trouble-filled debut in January’s Rolex 24 at Daytona followed by reoccurring gremlins last month at Sebring, which put its No. 50 Cadillac DPi-V.R on the backfoot heading into the sprint race portion of the season.
However, improved pace and clever strategy in a near-flawless race saw Owen and co-driver Kyle Kaiser record a seventh place finish overall, after leading 14 laps in the 100-minute race.
“This was a good improvement for the team this [past] weekend,” Owen told Sportscar365. “We generally had more pace than the last two races. We were a bit closer to the leaders.
“There’s a lot of things we’re really happy about. We executed pretty well, had good pit stops, the car didn’t break down. That’s all a lot of positive stuff.”
A bold call by race strategist Toni Calderon to leave Kaiser out during the second full course caution saw the 2017 Indy Lights champion take the lead, and hold the position until making a green flag stop with 41 minutes to go.
“In the race, we were running around seventh and knew the strategy just to do one stop, if we got a yellow the right way, could put us in the lead pretty easily,” Owen explained.
“We decided to do that. It didn’t work and we didn’t end up any worse off than we would have been.
“It was a really good call to gamble for one stop. And there were enough yellows that we didn’t have to fuel save.”
Owen had been running sixth in the closing stages although ended up in the barriers with less than ten minutes to go after giving room for the No. 31 Whelen Engineering Racing Cadillac DPi of Pipo Derani to pass.
Despite the incident, Owen said it was still a positive weekend for the Ricardo Juncos-owned squad.
“The last thing we want to do is be complacent but it’s definitely a turning point to have a race where we didn’t pit outside of the times we wanted to pit!” Owen said.
“We’re definitely very happy about that and we can sit back and know we did good work. Now we just have to push harder to keep this momentum up for Mid-Ohio.”
Owen’s co-driver for Mid-Ohio has not yet been announced, with Kaiser having been confirmed for Long Beach-only.