IRL: Indy Racing League News and Notes 2005-02-23

Today's IRL headlines 1. Bucknum passes rookie test 2. Drivers expect a smooth ride on IMS road course 1. Bucknum passes rookie test: Jeff Bucknum passed his Indy Racing League rookie test at the Phoenix International Raceway on March ...

Today's IRL headlines
1. Bucknum passes rookie test
2. Drivers expect a smooth ride on IMS road course

1. Bucknum passes rookie test: Jeff Bucknum passed his Indy Racing League rookie test at the Phoenix International Raceway on March 20, roughly 12 hours after winning the LTP2 class in the 12 Hours of Sebring.

Bucknum, the son of three-time Indianapolis 500 starter Ronnie Bucknum, will drive a second Dreyer & Reinbold Racing entry at Twin Ring Motegi and Indianapolis, with a primary sponsorship from Investment Properties of America. His No. 44 Honda-powered Dallara will carry the same red and blue color scheme as teammate Roger Yasukawa.

"I've driven a lot of miles at Phoenix, but this was my first time in an IndyCar (Series car), and it felt great to get the car up to speed," Bucknum said. "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, IndyCar Series technical manager, was the IRL's official observer for Bucknum's test. He had Bucknum complete the necessary phases for the rookie test on Sunday afternoon, working on speed, consistency, and his knowledge of the car.

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."

Bucknum will test with the Dreyer & Reinbold team next week at Sebring, before stepping into the cockpit for his first race at Motegi.

***

2. Drivers expect a smooth ride on IMS road course: Al Unser is familiar with Gasoline Alley and the racing oval at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. He's been attending the Indianapolis 500 since he could crawl, watching his father, Al Unser Jr., compete.

On March 24, Unser will drive a race car for the first time at the Brickyard when he tests the No. 3 Brian Stewart Racing Dallara/Infiniti/Firestone on the 3.4-mile road course. On June 19, the Menards Infiniti Pro Series for the first time will compete on the road course as part of the U.S. Grand Prix.

The test is free and open to the public.

"I've never been around the Indianapolis Motor Speedway track," Unser said. "Well, actually I have in an Oscar Mayer wiener mobile, but that was a long time ago. I've never driven around the track. I'm excited to run the road course there. It's definitely a style of road course that will fit these cars, because of the monoshock.

"It's a nice, smooth F1-style track. It's designed for the F1 cars, and the monoshock was designed in thought of an F1 car. It will tell us a lot on how the car is going to handle on a road course."

It also will give drivers, including Unser, some seat time with the 40-lap race on the streets of St. Petersburg, Fla., coming up April 3.

"Driving these cars, turning right, I haven't done that yet," Unser said. "I hope to get down to Sebring (Fla.) though and test there, because St. Pete is a street course, and it will be bumpy, and Indy is not bumpy."

Another famous Indianapolis 500 name -- Andretti -- will be represented at the test. Marco Andretti will make his Menards Infiniti Pro Series debut at St. Petersburg.

"I'm excited to see what he can do and what Andretti Green Racing can do," Unser said. "If they can do the same thing they do in the IndyCar Series in the Pro Series, then we're in trouble."

Vision Racing's Jay Drake also is looking forward to gaining experience on the road course.

"By all definitions, I'm going to be a rookie there," the former USAC driver said. "I'm looking forward to it. I took a three-day Russell Racing school out at Sonoma a couple of weeks ago. Hopefully that's going to benefit me and be a big help. I'm looking forward to running the road courses. It will be exciting to stay the least."

***

The 10th season of IndyCar Series competition continues with the Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg on Sunday, April 3 on the streets of downtown St. Petersburg, Fla. The race, the first non-oval event in IndyCar Series history, will be telecast live by ESPN and broadcast by IMS Radio Network at 3:30 p.m. (EST) The race also will be available on XM Satellite Radio channel "XM Extreme" (Channel 152). ESPN2's coverage of the Phoenix 100 will be telecast at 3 p.m. (EST) on March 24. The next Menards Infiniti Pro Series race is the Menards Infiniti Pro Series Grand Prix of St. Petersburg on on Sunday, April 3 on the streets of downtown St. Petersburg, Fla.. ESPN2's coverage of the race will be telecast at 3 p.m. (EST) on April 8.

-irl-

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Al Unser Jr. , Roger Yasukawa , Jeff Bucknum , Marco Andretti , Jay Drake , Al Unser
Teams Dreyer & Reinbold Racing