IRL: Two cars, two drivers, one team

For the first time in quite a while, Dreyer Reinbold Racing will have two & cars in the Indy Racing League's IndyCar Series. Admitted, it's just for two events but this brace of contests - at Twin Ring Motegi April 30th and the 89th Indianapolis...

For the first time in quite a while, Dreyer Reinbold Racing will have two & cars in the Indy Racing League's IndyCar Series. Admitted, it's just for two events but this brace of contests - at Twin Ring Motegi April 30th and the 89th Indianapolis 500 Mile Race - hold a lot of interest for the team and its two drivers.

Roger Yasukawa, who is making his third Indy 500 start runs the full season for DRR in their #24 Racing for Kids/Investment Properties of America Dallara/Honda/Firestone IndyCar Series entry.

Yasukawa, 27, was raised in the Los Angeles area but has been traveling the world his entire life. His father was a racer and the desire was strongly imbedded in his son, who came second in the 2003 Bombardier Rookie of the Year standings to Dan Wheldon, just 11 points in arrears.

He didn't race much in 2004, just two events for Rahal Letterman Racing where he took 11th at Twin Ring Motegi and a second straight tenth in the Indy 500. He spent the balance of the season knocking on doors and asking for sponsorship, showing his face at all IndyCar Series events he could manage and working toward a full season ride in 2005.

When Dreyer & Reinbold went looking for a driver this year, Yasukawa seemed a perfect fit, thanks to his Honda affiliation and the team's dependence on Honda power in 2005. It's likely to be a good fit as everyone gets comfortable but there have been a few potholes.

Yasukawa finished 17th at Homestead-Miami Speedway when involved in "the big one" on lap 159; he had mechanical difficulties that took him out of the Phoenix race after 174 laps and took 11th at St Petersburg despite a first-day accident that had the team scrambling to catch up.

Yasukawa will have the benefit of a teammate for the next two, important oval events in Japan and at Indy. Jeff Bucknum, son of former F1 combatant Ronnie Bucknum will work with him in those two races driving a #44 Investment Properties of America Dallara/Honda. Bucknum has been racing in the American Le Mans Series and has always wanted to race Indy cars.

The duo have had some time to get acclimated and, with Bucknum's innate knowledge of both Sebring International Raceway (where he had just completed the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring) and Infineon Raceway Sears Point they're better prepared for the remaining road races on the calendar.

Bucknum may not join them for those two road races but his input has been valuable for Yasukawa, who has limited Barber Dodge Pro Series and Toyota Atlantic Championship experience.

"I've got great anticipation for this first IndyCar Series race in Japan," Bucknum advised, "but I don't know what it will be like driving around and mixing it up with other cars on the track." The turbulence is very different from that in sports cars, he's already discovered.

"It's quite exciting to be going to Japan," where his father raced in the past. "These two races are very special; racing the Indy 500 has always been a dream of mine." Bucknum, 38, might seem a bit old to be a rookie but feels confident he's up to the task.

"I did my rookie test at Phoenix International Raceway on February 24th. Roger got the car set up for me that Sunday and it responded perfectly. We shared a car at Sebring right after the 12-hour race to tune up for St Pete and I got into the #24 car last Tuesday at Infineon to get more comfortable with the cockpit surroundings.

"Taking off from a dead stop in an Indy car is much, much different from my sports car," he laughed. "With these few days under my belt I'm starting to feel really comfortable in the DRR car."

With his background as a road racer and only limited Barber Dodge and Star Mazda experience on ovals, Bucknum can learn from Yasukawa, just as the Japanese-American can learn from him. "Mixing it up with the pack is something new to me," Bucknum acknowledged. "I need to learn what the car does when you don't have the same downforce" as when running alone.

"No matter what your focus in racing, Indianapolis is still the biggest race in the world. You always want to be there," Bucknum declared. "My father ran at the Brickyard from 1968 through 1970 and our family has great memories of the place and the race. I'm just glad to be going to Indy with a great team like DRR."

Yasukawa is already in Japan doing promotional work for the race organizers and for Honda; he's been there for 3-4 days already. When he's got a week off, Roger goes to Japan to unwind anyway and it's "part of my job to build up interest in Twin Ring Motegi and the Indy 500.

"I think this race at Motegi will be better with more attendance than the previous two," Yasukawa commented. "It is Golden Week holiday in Japan and the weather should be nicer this time" because the Indy cars are making their third visit to Tochigi Prefecture a bit later in the year.

Yasukawa is grateful for the input Jeff Bucknum has given his team as they've worked toward the first three street/road-course contests in the Indy Racing League's ten-year history. "Jeff's test helped because he has a bit of experience at both tracks we ran thus far.

"Getting used to the car on such as challenging track as Infineon, you need a bit more and that's where Jeff's input helped. We don't want to take too many risks and need to take these steps in conservative fashion. We improved the car a lot but wasted the afternoon fishing," after making a big change they could never impose on a race weekend where time constraints take over.

Jeff Bucknum goes back to racing sports cars full-time after his two toe- dips into IndyCar Series competition. "I'd love to do more later and it would be great if it came with DRR but we haven't talked. I've got nothing lined up for later in the year." He knew he wanted to be with a Honda team at Indy "and we negotiated with all the Honda teams. The business side lined up and here we are!"

Dreyer & Reinbold has competed in the Indy Racing League since 1999, when part owner Robbie Buhl joined the squad formed by Dennis Reinbold and Eric DeBord. The team has one IndyCar Series victory courtesy of Buhl at Walt Disney World in 2000; Sarah Fisher earned pole position in 2002 at Kentucky Speedway for the DRR team and Buhl took eighth in points during the 2000 season.

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Series IndyCar
Drivers Sarah Fisher , Robbie Buhl , Dan Wheldon , Roger Yasukawa , Jeff Bucknum