Bunker turns to open-wheel at Road Atlanta

Rob Bunker Road Atlanta preview: stock cars to open-wheel While other drivers are ditching their familiar open-wheel racing mounts for the lure of stock-car racing, Rob Bunker is bucking the trend. After manhandling horsepower in the ARCA RE/MAX...

Rob Bunker Road Atlanta preview: stock cars to open-wheel

While other drivers are ditching their familiar open-wheel racing mounts for the lure of stock-car racing, Rob Bunker is bucking the trend. After manhandling horsepower in the ARCA RE/MAX Series, he will return to compete in a Star Mazda Championship race this week. He hopes the skills he has acquired in the heavier, higher-horsepower stock car will boost his performance in a nimble Pro Formula Mazda car.

Bunker, of Bridgewater, N.J., will drive the No. 77 Velocity Motorsports Mazda in the Oct. 5 race at Road Atlanta in Braselton, Ga. He tested the car at Carolina Motorsports Park in Kershaw, S.C., last week and immediately saw improvement.

"We made sure we didn't sacrifice any throttle. In a 900-horsepower stock car, it's hard to go right to the floor, so it was cool to have a car that I could literally flat-foot. Last year, I thought I was really driving at the limit of the car and I showed myself at Kershaw that there's more there," he said.

"In a formula car, once you start to lose grip, it goes away fast. Last year, if that was to happen, I was rolling 'way out of the throttle. I didn't have the confidence to carry a big slide all the way through a corner. But we were dealing with a little bit of oversteer during the test and I could literally -- with whatever amount of throttle I needed -- fix it with my hands. With a stock car, you've got to put a whole lot of movement in your hands. So with a few inches of radius that I have in a formula car wheel, I can do a lot."

Bunker, 19, has set a goal to be the most versatile driver among his peers. He believes experience in different series will hone his talent in all forms of racing. The Road Atlanta race will be a test of both driving skill and career strategy.

"Being in something with a lot of grip like a formula car and then being in something with a lot of horsepower like a stock car really helps you take the best of both worlds, or the best of however many series we're going to end up running in. You can take the best tips from each series, combine them into one mental state and it helps to make you the perfect driver," he explained.

"This is a chance to see if what we learned in stock-car racing can help in formula cars. We're keeping all the doors open, so I want to make sure that I'm on top of my game in stock cars, formula cars, maybe one day prototypes. I want to be the most well-rounded driver out there for my age. I want to be able to go to any track around any sort of cars and be able to sell myself to team owners. I don't want to be limited to just one thing."

After a season of learning new cars, tracks, teams and series, Bunker is looking forward to returning to the 2.54-mile Road Atlanta road course -- a circuit he knows and enjoys.

"It's a track I like a lot; I know it like the back of my hand. I can do laps in my head and I know that they're going to be spot on," he said. "It won't be as big a mental challenge. I'll just get to go out and focus purely on racing and bettering myself. I won't have to worry about learning the track or getting reacquainted or anything like that. I'm right there."

-credit: -- robbunker.com --

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Series ARCA , Pro Mazda