Journal Sports/Pit Board for April 30, 2005
by Dale J. Bosowski
There’s no place like home and for West Sacramento native Burney Lamar that place is Stockton’s 99 Speedway.
Lamar will be back in Stockton tonight, competing in the NASCAR Autozone Elite Division Southwest Series race, the first half of a monster twin bill, which also features a 150-lap race for the NASCAR Grand National West Series.
“I always look forward to going back to the 99. It’s my home track,” said Lamar earlier this week. “It’s such a fun track to race at and I have so many friends and fans there.”
Lamar, age 24, has been racing practically since he learned to walk. At the age of five, when most kids are trying to master the art of potty training, Lamar was competing in go-karts. After earning numerous junior karting championships, Lamar graduated to stock cars at the age of 16, competing full time against such veterans as Harry Belletto, Dave Byrd and Ron Strmiska in the Late Model Sportsman division at Stockton in 1997.
“Racing has been my whole life. I never played baseball or basketball. It’s all I’ve ever done or wanted to do,” confesses Lamar.
In 1999 Lamar won the championship in the ultra-competitive Tri-Track Challenge, predecessor series to the SRL Wild West Shootout and in 2001 he earned rookie of the year honors in the NASCAR Southwest Series.
Lamar’s 4th place finish in the overall 2004 Southwest Series season points earned him a birth in the NASCAR Toyota All Star Shootout at Irwindale Raceway last November where his gutsy third place finish caught the eye of Nextel Cup driver Kevin Harvick who was scouting for a young developmental driver to be a part of his upstart KHI (Kevin Harvick Incorporated) racing team.
“I was in the garage last winter working on the race cars when I got a phone call from him,” recalls Lamar. “My first thought was ‘OK, who’s messing with me’, but it wasn’t a joke. We talked and he asked me to be part of his team.”
Lamar jumped at the chance. He moved back to North Carolina, in the heart of stock car country, last February to work in the KHI team garage and to drive selected races in both the NASCAR West Series and Craftsman Truck Series for Harvick, while still competing full-time in the Southwest Series for Bakersfield based Groeniger/HPS/Tri-C/Victory Circle team.
“It’s incredible to have someone like Kevin or Rick Carelli (KHI general manager and former champion of both the West and Southwest series) on the radio during a race giving me pointers,” said Lamar. “They have both helped me out tremendously by showing me various things about the tracks and what I need to do differently in a West Series car versus a Southwest car. Getting advice from people with their knowledge and experience, that have been there and done that, has been invaluable. I am in good hands here.”
Although the West Series cars are several hundred pounds heavier and pack more horsepower than a late model, Lamar has proven to be a quick learner, making the transition between the two series with ease. After finishing sixth in his West Series debut at Mesa Marin Speedway in Bakersfield on April 9th, Lamar captured the checkered flag in the Arizona 150, run on the one-mile oval at Phoenix International Speedway last weekend, in just his second West Series event start.
Lamar’s fast start in 2005 is beginning to turn a few heads.
“I have actually gotten to talk with Richard Childress (Kevin Harvick’s Nextel Cup car owner) a couple of times and he likes to give Kevin a hard time by telling him that he is going to hire me away from him,” laughs Lamar. “He does it just to get under Kevin’s skin, but it’s still pretty cool.”
Lamar duties tonight will be limited to the Southwest Series, where he has had equal success so far this season. After posting impressive first and third place finishes in the opening two races on the 2005 schedule, he comes to Stockton with a slim 30 point lead in the 2005 point standings over another driver who is also a well known commodity to central valley racing fans, Prunedale’s Jim Pettit II, the defending Southwest Series champion.
While Lamar is excited by the opportunity KHI has presented him this season, he is equally appreciative of his HPS ride in the Southwest Series.
“Getting to work with Kevin Harvick has been great, but the biggest break of my career was getting to drive for Les DenHerder of HPS,” explains Lamar. “He gave me my first chance at really good equipment. Without his help I would never have been able to catch the eye and get hooked up with of somebody like Harvick. I owe everything I have right now to the two of them.”
Besides making his Craftsman Truck debut in September Lamar also alluded to some other possibilities, without giving any specifics, that may be in the works down the road in the near future with Harvick. Whatever those possibilities may be, one thing is for absolute certain; Lamar’s racing future looks to be as bright as the Las Vegas strip.
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