Ilott quietly shines in the Iowa doubleheader weekend

NEWTON, IA — The Iowa Speedway is a special place for Juncos Hollinger Racing. It’s the spot to where the got their first ever victory back in 2009 with an Indy Pro 2000 triumph. This weekend, the single car team blasted to the front both days. Rookie Callum Ilott came from 22nd to finish 12th in Saturday’s race around the .894-mile short track. A day later, he started 22nd again and this time, improved to finish 11th in his No. 77 Dallara-Chevrolet.

“To finish this doubleheader just outside the Top-10 in both races was great for our team, as we do not have the experience here in the NTT INDYCAR SERIES, along with Callum not having short oval experience, as many other teams and drivers do,” said team owner Ricardo Juncos. “We knew this weekend could be a struggle for us as we did not have the best test day here last month and we didn’t have the best results in practice or qualifying. Only having a one car team we were not able to show Callum from the data what to do, so that made it challenging. We learned a lot in the first race and Callum and the team did an incredible job to finish 12th. Today the engineers made some changes, which were mega in terms of the pace that Callum was able to show throughout each stint. To finish 12th and 11th was just a dream and I am so proud of everyone. We are not here to fight for a championship, but what the entire JHR team was able to do was more than I can describe. Callum is such a talented driver and has proven that all season long, along with this group we have put together at JHR, I can’t thank each person enough for all of their effort this season. There is still a lot more racing left this season, and I am excited to see what we can do in the No. 77 JHR Chevrolet! Thank you to all of our sponsors – GPNFTS, NAW, LHP, MPT, and Purdue for their support and commitment to us.”

Ilott had an impressive run in his third ever oval weekend. To do so on a track that’s so difficult to race on and to not have any teammates to bounce ideas off of turned a lot of heads in the paddock.

The three-day event began Friday afternoon with one 90-minute practice session on the 0.875-mile, tri-oval. Times among the 26-car field proved to be incredibly tight, with the entire field less than a second apart. Ilott driving the No. 77 JHR Chevrolet finished the session 21st.

Saturday teams would be faced against extreme heat with temperatures over 95 degrees Fahrenheit. Qualifying for both rounds took place that morning, with Ilott qualifying for both races in 22nd.

The NTT INDYCAR SERIES returned to the track Saturday afternoon with a packed house for the HyVeeDeals.com 250 presented by DoorDash. Once the green flag waved, fans were treated to an action-packed 250-lap race. Ilott, who started 22nd settled in to his first stint just before the first caution came out on lap-17. The No. 77 JHR Chevrolet made its first pit stop on lap-19, and then began to charge forward through the field. Ilott made up an impressive 10 positions within the first 50-laps and still was charging forward. Before his second pit stop, Ilott was running well inside the Top-10, as high as sixth. After three more cautions and two more pit stops, Ilott would finish the day off in a solid 12th place finish, his best finish on an oval this season and his first short oval race ever. 

“I was super happy with that, p12 in the end of a very long and tiring race,” said Ilott. “It was a good first half of the race. We made our way up into the top-10. I struggled a little bit in one of the stints, to kind of getting the tire working. That last stint we had good pace and was just trying to hold on to the end with those tires, I think it was the same for everyone. P12 from P22, a big thanks to the team! The engineers have been working hard to get the car right for qualifying and then into the race. We have a little bit to look at because there is still more time we can find, but I’m really happy with that in my first short oval race.”

Sunday temperatures were slightly cooler for the start of the Hy-Vee Salute to Farmers 300 presented by Google than the heat experienced Saturday. Ilott would once again start from 22nd but work his way through the field during the 300-lap race. During the first 60 laps Ilott was able to improve 10 positions, running 12th. After the pitstop, Ilott continued to move up, running 10th before the first caution came out on lap 119. Ilott was running eighth before the final caution came out on lap 235. The No. 77 JHR Chevrolet went on to finish 11th, the last car to be on the lead lap.

“I’m really happy with the weekend, what can I say finishing p11 and p12,” said Ilott. “The team put together an amazing car and eased me into it in my first short oval race. I know there was more in there, we had the pace to get up to p8, maybe even more. Unfortunately, a bit of things going on in the pit stops, its not easy when a lot of cars are coming in at the same time. But what a great effort by the team and I’m pretty proud of myself for getting the job done in both races. We got some good points finally and now we go back to where we are strong at on the road courses.”

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