Randy Buck Has Spent Three Decades as Instructor, Coach, Race Official
By Mark Robinson
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. - Talk about baptism under fire, Randy Buck must have felt just that in his debut as an IMSA official.
Named Race Director for two race series under IMSA sanction for the first time in 2021 – the Idemitsu Mazda MX-5 Cup presented by BFGoodrich Tires and the Porsche Carrera Cup North America – Buck’s first race overseeing MX-5 Cup came down to a donnybrook finish. The top seven finishers at Daytona International Speedway on Jan. 28 clicked across the finish line separated by less than four-tenths of a second. The second- and third-place cars were a mere one-thousandth of a second apart.
But with a wealth of experience guiding drivers of all age and skill levels, Buck took it in stride and directed a flawless MX-5 Cup doubleheader to open the season. The longtime racing instructor, coach and official did admit, though, that the end of the second MX-5 Cup race at Daytona, which finished under a full-course yellow a day later, made his work a bit less frenzied.
"I was probably the only person that was a little happy with how it ended under caution, just because there was less drama," Buck said with a chuckle. "It was shaping up to be another (wild finish)."
Buck’s background made him an ideal candidate for IMSA. He’s spent three decades as a racing instructor with the Skip Barber and Lucas Oil racing schools. While at Skip Barber, the Californian took on race director duties for some of its series. For the last four years, he was race director for the Porsche Sprint Trophy USA West series. He’s also been a driver coach for more than a decade, notably in the Ferrari Challenge North America series also sanctioned by IMSA.
Mark Raffauf, IMSA Senior Director of Racing Operations, said all that know-how made Buck the right fit to oversee the two vastly different series. MX-5 Cup is an entry-level endeavor while Carrera Cup is in the middle of Porsche’s highly competitive global motorsports development chain.
"He is just the right guy," Raffauf said of Buck. "He has the right skill sets, personality and can handle everything from the younger, less experienced drivers just starting out to those who have years of experience. He can cover the gamut of the personalities and the type of people that you have to deal with in those two series."
Buck said the role of a race director is to "solve all of the personnel and personality conflicts that can arise in policing what happens during a race." He added that his background as a racer, instructor, coach and official has taught him to approach every ruling or decision as an educational opportunity.
"There are rules and penalties involved when the rules get broken," he said, "but it’s more than just black and white – ‘this was the rule and this is what the penalty is.’ It’s how you explain it. My goal has always been to make it a learning experience, not just a punitive thing.
"Having been a racer myself in my early career and been involved in coaching racers for most of my career, I’m eminently aware of the other side of what a race director’s decisions impact and how they come across," Buck continued. "So I always make sure that it’s fair, that I have a reason for doing it, that I believe in the reason I’m doing it, and that I try and be consistent in anything and everything I do."
The MX-5 Cup is the signature spec series for Mazda Motorsports, with all competitors racing fourth-generation Mazda MX-5s converted from road cars into race cars. Porsche Carrera Cup North America joins existing Carrera Cup series around the world to give the German manufacturer a true global footprint with the series. Competitors use the latest-generation Porsche 911 GT3 Cup car based on the current 992 generation.
Buck is in for a dose of double duty at the upcoming Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring Presented by Advance Auto Parts weekend, March 17-20. Carrera Cup is set to debut with a pair of races at Sebring, while MX-5 Cup announced this week that it will also conduct two races on the famous Florida road course that was formerly an airfield.
If calling four races and all their preliminary sessions is unnerving, Buck isn’t showing it.
"There were a couple (times when both MX-5 Cup and Carrera Cup were) on the schedule later in the year anyways, so it was going to happen," he said. "Now it’s just a little earlier. I expect that the racetrack at Sebring is going to be fun for both the Carrera Cup and for MX-5. It should be pretty exciting."