Talking With Jeff Bucknum
© Andrew S. Hartwell
"We are a brand new effort in this style of racing. We come from a
sprint race series, Formula Mazda. In fact we have four cars racing
in that series this weekend. We won the championship in that last
year and we are looking to win again this year, we have a shot at it."
Young Jeff Bucknum heads up the LMP675 class Bucknum Racing
effort and he gave me an overview of the team and what they have
planned for this weekend and the near future. Bucknum joins the
Dick Barbour and ROC teams in bringing some real excitement to
what is beginning to become an important class in the ALMS world.
And Jeff Bucknum wants his contribution to be made with class.
"My goal as a driver and an owner has always been to get into endurance racing, this kind of racing. This is our start. We are getting our feet wet with the Petit. We are going to run the 24 Hours of Daytona with two cars. Next season we will probably run the entire ALMS season.
"I had driven a Lola chassis at the 24 hours of Daytona and then I had a drive in a Pilbeam car in the Road America Grand Am. I found the Pilbeam to be a kind of friendlier car to balance out. We bought our Pilbeam new from the distributor. It is chassis 005. It was just a choice and I like the Pilbeam guys so I decided to make a program with their cars.
Anyone coming into a new series and being exposed to new challenges needs to identify the points at which the team's energies must be directed to achieve success. Bucknum has quickly identified those points. And he is confident they are the primary considerations for his well-established group.
"I think the learning curve for our team is pit stops and strategy as we are not competing in sprint races with the ALMS. The goal is to stay on the track and not make any mistakes in the pits. We are using this weekend to introduce ourselves to endurance racing. We are using the 10 hours here to get our team prepared for the 24 hours at Daytona. After that, our main goal is to win a championship in the ALMS.
"This weekend we don't expect to be near the front as we are running the car in Grand Am configuration. We have the 3.0-liter motor where the ALMS cars allow a 3.4-liter motor and there is a world of difference.
"All three of the drivers this weekend are from Formula Mazda. Chris McMurry was a driver for us last year and will be finishing the year with us in the Pilbeam. Brian Wellman has been with us for some time, he is actually a partner in Team Bucknum Racing and he is racing both this car and in Formula Mazda this weekend, as is our third driver, Brett Arsenault.
"Since we are a new team, we had to decide on Grand Am or ALMS and, we like the support series in ALMS and I like the organization. That is not to say I don't like Grand Am but you do have to make a choice. We decided to go with ALMS because we want to be where the momentum is. We like to be with a front running organization and be a front running team in that.
"Next year we will have two cars, and a new transporter and we will work towards winning a championship, most likely in the ALMS. We typically run six cars in Formula Mazda but we are going to scale that back to four. I've got very good engineers and coaches over there so we will leave that operation in place.
"I plan to drive the car, either the full season or just in the longer races but my first job is to just run the team. We are based in Lake Havasu, Arizona.
"The team is funded by the mix of sponsorships we have as a team and we have drivers who bring sponsorship to the table. Like most privateer teams, we have a mix of money sources. Money comes from all different directions."
Emblazoned on the side of the Pilbeam us a smiling chocolate brownie. Being a man with an immense interest in all things chocolate, I asked Jeff what that was about.
"Brownies.com is tied to our driver Chris McMurry. They were a major sponsor for him in Formula Mazda and they have carried over to this program for at least the two races we are going to do this year which includes this race and the Grand Am finale at Daytona. We give away brownies on the weekend so be sure to stop back here later."
You don't have to tell me twice Jeff! Brownies are one of my basic food groups!