Pettit Honored as Southwest Series Champion
LAS VEGAS, NV (December 10, 2005) It was a star-studded evening as Jim Pettit II from Prunedale, Calif. celebrated his second consecutive NASCAR AutoZone Elite Division, Southwest Series championship last night. Pettit joins Ron Hornaday as the only back-to-back champion in the 20-year series history.
Pettit and the rest of the top fifteen drivers were honored at the annual awards banquet that was hosted by the Orleans Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas, Nevada. Dick Berggren of NASCAR on Fox served as emcee for the event and reminded the more than 300 drivers, teams, and guests that short track grassroots racing is the most exciting, competitive, and enjoyable form of motorsports.
Pettit honored his crew and family for their accomplishments by creating replicas of the championship NASCAR diamond ring presented NASCAR's Don Hawk for his mother, father, and crew chief Duane Sharp. He and his car owner wife Veronica also designed a special championship crew member's diamond ring for each member of his team.
As Pettit and his team relished the moment he also challenged the rest of the series regulars to prepare for the opening round of the 2006 Southwest Series season at Phoenix which is only six weeks away. Pettit intends on defending his championship and becoming the first three-time series champion.
"This championship is very special," Pettit said. "When you win, it makes you want to do it again. Our team did an outstanding job all season and we are ready to defend and win our third title."
Other special award winners included runner-up Auggie Vidovich from Lakeside, Calif. as he collected the series Most Popular Driver Award for the second time in his six year Southwest Series career. Vidovich scored four wins during the 2005 season along with claiming a decisive victory in the third annual NASCAR Toyota All-Star Showdown staged last month.
Eddy McKean, the 2002 Southwest Series champion, was honored as the 2005 PowerAde Power Move-of-the-Race award winner. McKean joked as he said that he was finally rewarded for his qualifying prowess.
"I love this series," McKean said. "We are all a family and racing with all of you have made me a better driver. We have fun and enjoy every moment on and off the track. Look out Jim (Pettit), that third championship will not be that easy as we plan on winning our second title."
Burney Lamar from West Sacramento, Calif. collected two awards in his final Southwest Series season before moving on to the NASCAR Busch Series in 2006. Lamar claimed the Budweiser Pole Award after winning three poles in 2005. He also collected the Featherlite Award.
"I am so thankful for the time I spent on the Southwest Series," Lamar said. "This has been some of the best times of my life and I will relish the memories for a lifetime. You all taught me so much and I am so grateful."
Nick Lynch from Burley, Idaho finished fifth in the final standings and was recognized as the series Most Improved driver for his 2005 efforts. "I am honored to be here with you all tonight," Lynch said. "We accomplished all of our goals this year and to win this award is real special."
Long-time Southwest Series veteran Bob Lyon from Aqua Dulce, Calif. was honored as the George Stiles Series Dedication Award recipient for his nineteen years of support and dedication to the Southwest Series.
Mike Harvick earned the Lunati Crew Chief Award after guiding his driver, Auggie Vidovich, to five wins in 2005. Harvick was gracious and thankful for the award. "I had a great time this year," Harvick said. Auggie did a great job and made racing really fun."
Perhaps the most successful driver in the Southwest Series never to win a championship is M.K. Kanke from Frazier Park, Calif. Kanke has finished second several times in the championship standings and closed out the 2005 season in seventh place after claiming his 20th career win. Kanke was honored as the 2005 Southwest Series Sportsman-of-the-Year.
"I am humbled by this award," Kanke said. "This award really goes out to my crew and my car owner Dan Nicolai, for without them this would not be possible."
Don Campbell of Campbell, Calif. claimed Sunoco Rookie-of-the-Year honors after qualifying for all 14 races this season and scoring two top ten finishes. He was the top finishing rookie on six occasions and had the best eight rookie finishes to claim the award.
"I had a great time this year," Campbell said. "All of the veterans accepted me and made our team feel welcomed. We learned a lot and can't wait until Phoenix so we can remove that rookie stripe."
The 2006 Southwest Series schedule kicks off in only six weeks at Phoenix Int'l Raceway January 21-22. For all the latest news and information regarding the Southwest Series log onto www.nascarregionalracing.com.