YOU HEARD IT HERE FIRST With a cursor hovering over the "Send" button last week, Kevin Buckler wasn't sure if he really wanted to send out the e-mail awaiting the click. "I'd already re-read and re-written the thing a couple of times but ...
YOU HEARD IT HERE FIRST
With a cursor hovering over the "Send" button last week, Kevin Buckler wasn't sure if he really wanted to send out the e-mail awaiting the click.
"I'd already re-read and re-written the thing a couple of times but thought, 'Well, maybe it needs another read,'" Buckler said while at Watkins Glen - where his No. 66 Porsche driven by Andy Lally, Spencer Pumpelly and R.J. Valentine nailed another GT victory.
It probably didn't really need "another read" as much as Buckler was in need of satiating queasiness while on the verge of taking yet another big-time plunge in a successful career full of them - one that's going to move TRG up a notch or two in the motorsports racing world.
"Then, I just said, 'What the heck,' and sent it."
"It" was letter that offered its recipients a chance to buy a piece of a new NASCAR team Buckler is putting together.
Less than 24 hours later, Buckler had more than twice the money he'd sought -- or expected -- as a result of that e-mail, enabling TRG to field NASCAR Busch Series cars for the Aug. 4 NAPA Auto Parts 400 at Montreal's Circuit Giles Villeneuve, the following week's Zippo 200 at Watkins Glen International and as many as four oval races.
Well, assuming a few other 'minor' pieces fall into place, too.
"We'll start off with leasing the equipment," the two-time Rolex 24 At Daytona winner said, citing a lack of time to build or buy his own chassis, which will come with time.
"We want top-shelf equipment and I'm in discussion with a number of possible providers. We're not going to a race not to make the field and not to have a shot at winning," Buckler said.
As for drivers, one already is on the TRG staff: Lally.
Though making his mark in sportscars -- most recently winning the Rolex Series' 2006 GT driving championship -- Lally has long hoped for a stock car racing deal and earlier in his career even put in some seat time in NASCAR's defunct DASH Series.
Given the fact that Buckler has come a long, long way -- with his main squeeze, Debra, at his side -- after starting a bootstrap racing parts business in home garage, his momentary self-doubt in sending out last week's e-mail almost seems a bit odd.
Those who have made a move into anything "NASCAR" generally have been sobered by the reality of its difficulty -- whether owner or driver. Few really ever "make" it. Buckler will be one.
Most everyone in tune with the Rolex Series and NASCAR worlds already likely knows Colin Braun - driver of Tracey Krohn's No. 76 Krohn Racing Pontiac-Riley which, with co-driver Max Papis, finished fifth at this past weekend's Sahlen's Six Hours of The Glen -- signed a 13-year deal with Roush Fenway Racing.
It ain't for sportscar racing.
Braun will take on a few ARCA Series races this year, giving the 18-year-old a tune-up for an ARCA rookie-of-the-year run in 2008 with Braun/Roush Fenway Racing likely moving toward a NASCAR effort after that.
Just about this time last year Braun was coming off an undesired, unexpected and darn-sure involuntary weekend holiday from racing that team owner Tracy Krohn did all he could to prevent -- causing at least a few bad feelings as a result.
Prevented from racing in the 2006 six-hour by anti-cigarette contract language between Watkins Glen International and cigarette companies that evidently didn't remotely anticipate the possibility of an emancipated 17-year-old, Braun watched as teammate and eventual Rolex Series 2006 Daytona Prototype driving champ Jorg Bergmeister win the team's first race of the 2006 season (with Boris Said, who said "I didn't do all that much, really.")
Given that Braun wasn't able to compete in a couple or three 2006 races, no one can say with certainty that he would've also scored a piece of that DP driving championship, but such certainly was probable. For sure, without being able to match Bergmeister's points accumulation, in the 2006 championship standings Braun nonetheless finished only 80-points down in fourth place.
I've watched and talked with Braun from the time he, Brad Coleman and Adrian Carrio showed up at Daytona International Speedway for the 2005 Test Days (the Rolex 24 At Daytona hoe-down preparation). Let there be no doubt that Braun is a talented fellow. He's also a young man who is mature beyond his 18-years. I've been duly impressed, time after time, with his "command and control" whether in or out of the race car. His parents, Diane and Jeff Braun, have done well -- from providing the DNA double-helix to upbringing -- and no doubt rightfully take great pride in him (and brother Travis, too).
Still, such doesn't mean Braun can match his more experienced piers "wisdom-for-wisdom." As Mr. and Mrs. Braun likely also attest, those who've survived more than a couple of decades ended up learning a whole lot more than we thought we'd learn when 18. Colin won't be an exception to the rule. That is guaranteed.
"Colin is a talented driver," said a fellow racer, on the condition of anonymity, who is familiar with Braun's style. "But he isn't inclined to compromise in the set-up department. He likes his style of racing -- and it's fast -- but he needs to have a co-driver who is able to adapt to Colin's set-up style because he doesn't like to bend on that account."
Is that why Braun today isn't where he was -- point for point -- in 2006?
Braun doesn't think so.
"I've got a new car, new crew chief, new car chief, new engine and a new co-driver," Braun pointed out at Sahlen's Six Hour, "The only thing that isn't new is the chassis and me."
Unless some sort of major change comes to stock car racing, it won't be long before Braun won't need to worry about sharing the seat of his race car. (Then again, only about one person was thinking about NASCAR's "Chase" six or so years ago.)
I know NASCAR is where it's "at" and ARCA lends a big assist on one's climb to the top of North America's racing ladder but I lament Braun all but stop his climb of the sportscar racing ladder. It would've been a climb worth watching.
Maybe I'll now have to more regularly tune to the stock car shows to learn just what kind of driver Braun will become.
Here's hope it'll be spectacular -- if nothing else but to demonstrate that "sporty-car types" really are real race car drivers.
At the Sahlen's Six Hour, Memo Gidley and Guy Cosmo drove their No. 77 Kodak Ford-powered Doran to a place it's not been seen in awhile: the front of a DP race field and actively challenging for a race lead.
Roush Yates Engines' Rolex Series Man-on-the-Scene, John Maddox, had many glowing words of praise for Doran's JE4 DP on the afternoon prior to Saturday's race, saying he thought Doran and his team were right on the edge of producing a car capable of competing with the best of the other DPs.
Oswaldo Negri, driver of Mike Shank's No. 60 Lexus-Riley (along with Mark Patterson) said the No. 77 had unmatchable straightaway speed. "They went by us like we were standing still."
Of course, one only needs to flatten a wing or two to go straight-line fast, but such assumes corners don't exist. Corners do exist at Watkins Glen, with Gidley and Cosmo taking them as well as anyone else.
Unfortunately, rumors abounded at Watkins Glen that the team will likely will be a no-show at the Mid-Ohio race a little less than two weeks hence.
Life's an odd deal sometimes, ain't it?
-Written exclusively for Motorsport.com by DC Williams.