Bucknum Passes IRL Rookie Test
March 23, 2005 | 10:43 A.M. EST
Jeff Bucknum passed his Indy Racing League Rookie Test at the Phoenix International Raceway on Sunday afternoon, roughly 12 hours after winning his LTP2 class in the "12 Hours of Sebring" Saturday evening. Bucknum will drive Dreyer & Reinbold Racing's second entry at Motegi and Indianapolis, with a primary sponsorship from Investment Properties of America. His No. 44 Honda/Dallara/Firestone will carry the current red and blue color scheme, and he will join teammate Roger Yasukawa in the No. 24 car.
"I’ve driven a lot of miles at Phoenix, but this was my first time in an Indy Car and it felt great to get the car up to speed," said Bucknum. "I’ve been racing for years, but the whole deal with pit stops was all really new. I’ve got a lot to learn with the stop and go’s in traffic, but I’m looking forward to working with the team."
Kevin Blanch, Manager, Technical, for the IndyCar Series was the IRL’s official observer for Bucknum’s test. He had Bucknum complete the necessary three phases for the rookie test on Sunday afternoon, working on speed, consistency, and his knowledge of the car.
It was Bucknum’s first day in an IndyCar, and he made the most of his seat time. "You were really consistent on your lines and your entries through the turns, and I’m sure the car felt more comfortable as you went along," Blanch told Bucknum.
Blanch set the stage for Bucknum to increase his speed with each 10-lap testing session, and offered advice and constructive criticism on increasing his learning curve.
John O’Gara, DRR’s team manager was also pleased with Bucknum’s progress, as he observed most of the runs from atop a three-story staging platform in PIR’s third turn.
"Roger did a good job of shaking down the car to get it ready for him, and Jeff stepped in and really exceeded our expectations," said O’Gara. "His line through the turns was really smooth and in fact, we actually had to ask him to slow down just a little before we started the test."
Hours earlier in Florida, Bucknum’s Courage C-65 Sebring entry was first in the LTP2 Class, scoring his first win in the "12 Hours of Sebring" event. The team, with co-drivers Ian James and Chris McMurry, finished 12th overall.
"We had problems with the alternator early on," said Bucknum, "But we were able to take over the lead late in the race and hold on to win the class. Rain on Friday washed out the qualifying, but we had a good start (sixth position) based on our practice times, and our momentum carried us through the weekend." Bucknum will test with the Dreyer & Reinbold team next week at Sebring, before stepping into the cockpit for his first race at Motegi.