American Le Mans Series Driver Jeff Bucknum Goes To The Extreme in 2005
Braselton, Ga. - American Le Mans Series driver Jeff Bucknum has never been one to back down from a challenge - one either presented to him or those that he has chosen to take on himself. In his early years, Jeff was introduced to the world of racing by his father Ronnie Bucknum who, competed in some of the world's most famous races. Although racing was not on Jeff's to-do-list until later in his life, his passion for life lead to a three-year professional surfing career that took him all over the world.
Since then, Jeff has followed in his father's footsteps and become quite the professional race car driver. You might say that living life on the edge is in his blood, a perfect explanation behind his new five-goal challenge known as the "2005 Extreme Goals: In Memory of Dennis Capitain". These extreme goals include a marathon, racing in the 24 Hours of Daytona, chasing the ALMS LMP2 championship, the 24 Hours of Le Mans, surfing a 30-plus-foot wave, and competing in the Indy 500.
Bucknum has decided to attempt these goals as a tribute to his late father-in-law and biggest fan, Dennis Capitain, family man and former Los Angeles police officer. Ronnie Bucknum never had the chance to see his son race because of his untimely death in 1992 due to complications with diabetes. As a result, Capitain became his father figure as he entered adulthood constantly following his progress from his home in Lake Havasu City, Arizona.
"We have tied all of these goals together to honor the unfortunate passing of my father-in-law and biggest fan, Dennis Capitain," said Bucknum. "It is a very emotional subject for me. He would come over to my house on a daily basis and we would sit and have coffee and talk about what I was doing next and what I was working on for my racing career, even surfing as he was an avid surfer when he was younger. He passed away just a few months ago with heart troubles so I have dedicated what I am calling the "2005 Extreme Goals" to Dennis Capitain. I have a little bit of emptiness in the sense that I wake up each day wanting to be able to drive up to his house and share these things with him but he is not there. I am sure he is watching and seeing these things coming together, but I just miss the part where we would just sit and chat."
The first of these extreme goals had Bucknum in a different type of endurance race than he normally experiences in the American Le Mans Series. Bucknum completed a grueling 26-mile run in the P.F. Chang's Rock and Roll Marathon in Phoenix, Arizona on January 9.
"When the gun went off, it took about 30 seconds for the line to start to move. I knew my pace should have been around an eight-minute and 30-second mile, but I got caught up in all the excitement and I ran the first two miles in seven minutes and 30 seconds.
"I started to back off that pace but for some reason I just couldn't get down to where I wanted to be. At the halfway mark I was still running an eight-minute mile average, which I knew was too fast. I started to run at about a nine-minute mile and it was going pretty good, but by the time I hit 20 miles, I could feel the effects of running too fast at the beginning.
"I had never run a marathon before, but I knew that runners hit some sort of wall when they get tired. It slammed me like a Mack truck at mile 24. I finally got to a water station and started drinking water to stay cool. I walked for the next 50 yards and started to think about my father-in-law and how I was doing this for him. That thought gave me a huge second wind and I kicked it in gear. I actually sprinted the last .2 miles once I saw the finish line.
Bucknum's original goal was to run the marathon in four hours and forty-five minutes. After all of the training and dedication, he crossed with a time of three hours, 54 minutes and nine seconds - almost one hour below a target time that he had set 18 weeks earlier.
As if running 26-miles was not enough, Bucknum will also strive to complete five other goals as part of the "2005 Extreme Goals" package. Ranging from racing to surfing, the remainder of these goals will make for a challenging and fascinating year as 2005 unfolds.
Bucknum will race in the 24 Hours of Daytona, but his primary focus is to chase the American Le Mans Series LMP2 Championship. He has joined Miracle Motorsports for the 2005 season with co-drivers John Macaluso (owner) and Chris McMurry. In addition, he hopes to compete in the world famous 24 Hours of Le Mans with the same team. Miracle Motorsports received an automatic invitation to the grueling endurance race as a result of the LMP2 championship win last season. However, Bucknum's goals will take him out of a race car again when he puts on a wet suit in California.
"Very few people know that I was actually on a professional surfing tour for three years. With that in mind, I really wanted to throw surfing into the mix of the '2005 Extreme Goals'. I hope to do that at one of the best and most well-known big wave spots in the world called Maverick's in Half Moon Bay, California just below San Francisco. Swells that come in during the winter can reach heights of 70 feet. I have actually not been surfing enough to do that, but I am going get out there on a 30-plus-foot day. I had Jeff Clark, one of the big wave gurus and the first person ever to surf Maverick's, build a board for me to go out and ride the waves at Maverick's.
"The last goal is to race the Indy 500, a lifelong dream of mine. My father did it three times in 1968, 1969, and 1970. It was before the time when I could watch him race, as I was too little. I have heard the stories, seen the pictures and watched a few movies of the races. It's just been a focus of mine to be able to race there as well.
"If each one of these goals are accomplished this year, it will be very satisfying for me to have had the chance to participate in each of these things. I hope that I will be able to win some of these goals and hit high marks. Fortunately I have a lot of support so I really believe that I will be able to come away from all of this with a real sense of accomplishment.
"The American Le Mans Series has been such a huge supporter of mine and all of the other drivers in the series. It is the leading sports car racing series in the world and to tie in all of these things and have the support of the ALMS is just awesome for me. Most of all, the support of my very understanding wife Suzanne and my three children Spencer, Ashley and Dylan is what makes these goals so exciting. I can share them with the most important people in my life. At the end of the day, my passion for life is not behind the wheel or riding a wave, it is my family, the people who support me the most."
The American Le Mans Series will continue to support Jeff Bucknum as well as monitor and report his progress with these goals as the year moves on. Be sure to check out www.americanlemans.com for updates regarding the "2005 Extreme Goals: In Memory of Dennis Capitain" as well as the upcoming 2005 American Le Mans Series season. Good luck Jeff, we wish you all the best!