Chicagoland: Rob Bunker preview

Rob Bunker hoped to celebrate his 19th birthday with a strong race finish, but he ended up losing gear power and tagged the wall instead of the podium during the ARCA RE/MAX Series race at Chicagoland Speedway in Joliet, Ill., on Sept. 8. The...

Rob Bunker hoped to celebrate his 19th birthday with a strong race finish, but he ended up losing gear power and tagged the wall instead of the podium during the ARCA RE/MAX Series race at Chicagoland Speedway in Joliet, Ill., on Sept. 8.

The Bridgewater, N.J., driver struggled with car setup early in the race weekend. He qualified the No. 4 Dodge Motorsports Dodge Charger 30th on the 40-car grid, with a lap of 31.921 seconds on the 1.5-mile oval, at an average speed of 169.168 mph. He found more speed during the race and was ready to charge when he lost third gear. He continued, despite deteriorating gears, but trouble hit again on lap 80 of the 134-lap race. Bunker was caught between two other cars, touched the wall and was out of the race.

"After the second restart, I lost third gear. I guess third gear went in little chunks and started tearing up the other gears -- fourth was pretty bad and first was about gone, as well. It made pitstops pretty hard. It also made restarts really hard, too," he explained.

"But we were making it work. We made good changes to the car, we were going fast. Then about 50 laps to go in the race, we went three wide. I was right in the middle and a guy up top came back down the track and I was in his way. I almost saved it -- I about kept it off the wall, just tapped it a little bit -- but the car was not in good condition, so it wouldn't even start again. I couldn't stay with everybody on restarts because I didn't have third gear, but we charged really hard. Overall, the race was great, but the results weren't that good."

Bunker's goal is to be a versatile driver, competitive in a host of cars and series. He said his experience this season with respected ARCA entrant Cunningham Motorsports will be valuable in other race disciplines.

"I'm definitely not afraid to put the car up next to other cars and up next to a thick wall. Having that feel for when the car's getting away from me, whether it's starting to understeer or oversteer, I'm far more sensitive to that now and I can take that with me to any other form of racing. I also know what it's like to handle a car that weighs 3400 pounds. That gives me a good feel for weight transfer and making transitions through corners," he said.

"The team helped me a lot this year. They're great motivators, they never get down on you. And we had some really good equipment, too. All the aspects of a great race team, they've got it. Mark [Gibson, general manager] really knows how to transcend that barrier between team owner, crew chief, mechanic and driver. He always tried to put me in the best position I could be in, in the car and out of the car.

"I'm happy with what we did this year. I'd love to come back and be in contention for some wins, because now we know what it takes."

-credit: -- robbunker.com --

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Series ARCA