Irwindale All-Star Showdown preview

AS HIS NASCAR CAREER ENTERS NEXT PHASE, BURNEY LAMAR HAS HIGH HOPES AT THIRD ANNUAL NASCAR TOYOTA ALL-STAR SHOWDOWN DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (Nov. 7, 2005) -- His racing career is on the fast track -- Burney Lamar will drive full-time in the NASCAR...


DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (Nov. 7, 2005) -- His racing career is on the fast track -- Burney Lamar will drive full-time in the NASCAR Busch Series in 2006 -- but he has unfinished business at Irwindale.

Lamar, a native of West Sacramento, Calif., is one of 70 drivers headed to Irwindale (Calif.) Speedway for the NASCAR Toyota All-Star Showdown this weekend. It's the third annual running of this invitational event, which features the top drivers from the NASCAR AutoZone Elite Division and the NASCAR Grand National Division.

Preliminary events will be held Friday evening, while the feature races are held Saturday night. SPEED Channel will televise both nights live, beginning at 11 p.m. ET/ 8 p.m. PT on Friday and 8 p.m. ET / 5 p.m. PT Saturday.

While no championship points are on the line, it's one of the biggest races of the year for NASCAR's regional short track racing stars. A win in the Toyota All-Star Showdown brings nationwide exposure, a winner's share of nearly $500,000 in overall prize money and, more importantly, bragging rights.

Lamar, 25, has spent the past six seasons honing his skills in the NASCAR AutoZone Elite Division, Southwest Series. In 2005, he teamed up with Kevin Harvick, Inc. (KHI) to run select NASCAR Grand National Division, West Series events while also maintaining his Southwest Series schedule with another team. In a deal announced last week at Texas Motor Speedway, Lamar will drive full-time for KHI in the No. 77 Dollar General Chevrolet NASCAR Busch Series entry in 2006.

It was at last year's Toyota All-Star Showdown, where Lamar won his division's 50-lap qualifying race on Friday and finished third in the main event Saturday, that Lamar caught the attention of Kevin Harvick.

"We've really run well [at the Toyota All-Star Showdown] in the past," Lamar said. "That's the race where I got hooked up with Kevin Harvick last year. I'm expecting to go there and do really well. We finished third there last year and we're going to go out there and try to win that [race] if we can."

"This is my second year with my Southwest Series car owners, Les and Sue Denherder. They've really given me a great opportunity and there's nothing I'd like to do more than to win that for them and my whole team. I've had a lot of fun racing for those guys. If you can't win the championship, but you win the Showdown, that's comparable to winning a championship. We'll be going for it.

"The competition is stiff, but if nothing else, we'll definitely go out and have a lot of fun. Just being able to hang out with the different people from across the country; the whole event is just a lot of fun."

Lamar and nine other drivers from the Southwest Series have one final obstacle to face before arriving at Irwindale. The Southwest Series "regular season" finale will be held Thursday at Phoenix International Raceway, meaning those 10 teams will pack up their haulers immediately after the race and drive nearly 300 miles, overnight, to arrive for a final round of practice and the qualifying races on Friday.

Although the travel schedule is tight, it's no trouble for these dedicated teams and drivers. Lamar and the rest of the Toyota All-Star Showdown field have been looking forward to this exclusive All-Star event since the first green flag dropped this season.


* All-Star Activities underway Wednesday ... Racing begins Friday night, but Toyota All-Star Showdown festivities get underway sooner. Several drivers arrive Wednesday for a mid-morning press conference. On Wednesday evening, beginning at 5 p.m. PT, Irwindale Speedway hosts its "Street Festival" featuring live music, food, games, driver autograph sessions and a pit stop competition between the top NASCAR Grand National Division teams. Admission to the "Street Festival", which is held on the Speedway grounds, is free.

* Celebrity status ... The drivers won't be the only stars at Irwindale this weekend. Television and movie personalities The Wayans Brothers, in conjunction with Star Motorsports, will be on hand Saturday. Recording artist Sophie B. Hawkins will perform a concert on Saturday after the racing ends. Hawkins' post-race performance is free with paid admission to Saturday's race. Toyota-sponsored NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series drivers David Reutimann (No. 17 NTN Bearings Toyota) and Brandon Whitt (No. 38 McMillian Homes/Cure Autism Now Toyota), both graduates of the NASCAR AutoZone Elite Division, are also scheduled to attend the event.

* Event overview ... The Toyota All-Star Showdown features the top drivers from two NASCAR regional racing divisions -- the NASCAR AutoZone Elite Division and the NASCAR Grand National Division. The AutoZone Elite Division includes four separate series using identical Late Model-style cars: the Midwest Series, Northwest Series, Southeast Series and Southwest Series. The top 10 drivers from each series are invited to make up the 40-car field in the Elite Division portion of the Toyota All-Star Showdown. ... The Grand National Division features cars similar to those used on the NASCAR Busch Series and includes two separate series: the Busch North Series and West Series. The top 15 drivers from each of these two series are invited. ... If any drivers inside the top 10 (or 15) decline, additional drivers may be invited

* Friday night ... All drivers in the event are guaranteed a starting spot in the main events, but must race for their starting position on Friday night. Twin 50-lap qualifying races are held in each division. In those preliminary events, the lineups are set by regular season points, with the champions and point leaders for each respective series starting in the rear.

Fast Facts

What: NASCAR Toyota All-Star Showdown.

Where: Irwindale Speedway, Irwindale, Calif.

When: Nov. 10-12, 2005.

Who: NASCAR Grand National Division and NASCAR AutoZone Elite Division.

Posted awards: $500,000.

Race distance: Grand National Division 150 laps (75 miles); Elite Division 125 laps (62.5 miles).

TV: SPEED Channel (live).

Radio: XM Radio (Channel 144).

Track layout: Half-mile oval.

Schedule: Practice Nov. 10; Practice and Qualifying Races 8 p.m. (PT) Nov. 11; 125-lap and 150 lap feature races 5 p.m. (PT) Nov. 12.

2004 Champions: Mike Johnson (NASCAR Grand National Division), Eric Holmes (NASCAR AutoZone Elite Division).


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Drivers Kevin Harvick , David Reutimann , Brandon Whitt , Mike Johnson , Burney Lamar