Daytona Beach, FL (November 25, 2001) Burney Lamar of West Sacramento, Calif. won the Rookie-of-the-Year title in the Featherlite Southwest Series, NASCAR Touring division over a talented group of competitors. Lamar, a "veteran" at age 20 driving...
Daytona Beach, FL (November 25, 2001) Burney Lamar of West Sacramento, Calif. won the Rookie-of-the-Year title in the Featherlite Southwest Series, NASCAR Touring division over a talented group of competitors. Lamar, a "veteran" at age 20 driving pavement Sprint Cars, rose to the challenge of competing on the FSWS, and nearly grabbed a win late in the season at Mesa Marin Raceway.
Lamar came to the FSWS series with an impressive resume in racing. By the age of nine, young Lamar had claimed 25 go-kart track championships and three International Karting Federation Regional championships. As Lamar entered his high school years he turned to stockcar racing and won the 1999 Shell Tri-Track Series in Central California.
With a championship under his belt he was offered an opportunity to drive a 650 horsepower USAC Sprint Car in the USAC Western States Sprint Car Series. He jumped at the chance and made the most of it as he finished third in the season standings collecting seven top five's, eleven top ten's, along with two fast time awards. His on-track prowess garnered the 19 year old Rookie-of-the-Year honors as well.
Lamar shifted his attention to moving up the NASCAR ranks in order to achieve his racing goals and submitted a resume' to Mike Bonicelli, who's FSWS team was looking for a suitable candidate to fill the seat vacated by series veteran M.K. Kanke. Bonicelli liked the kid and signed him to drive for the 2001 season.
Lamar juggles his full-time education with racing and the Cal-State Sacramento Junior can often be seen doing homework while at the track. Lamar is studying Business and holds a 3.6 grade point average even though his racing schedules often times has him missing school. "I always talk with my professors when I register for a class," Lamar said. "I let them know what I am doing and they generally work with me."
Lamar's optimism shines through on his boyish grin as he arrives at the race track for each event knowing he can win. In 16 events this season on the FSWS, he made 15 starts and recorded one top five and seven top ten finishes. He completed 1,819 laps out of a possible 2,132 and won over $18,330 in purse winnings. His final points position of ninth second best in his class, but garnered him the title.
Lamar had to wait until the final event at Tucson Raceway Park to wrap up the title over then leader Scott Brandt. Brandt, a native of Kalispell, Mont. who now calls Tucson home, was the leading the rookie chase going in to the final event. After several weeks of bad luck, Brandt saw his lead of four points evaporate to a single point. Lamar needed to finish ahead of Brandt in order to win. That is exactly what transpired. Lamar finished eighth, Brandt sixteenth. Lamar won the title by one point, 121 to 120.
"This Rookie crown means a lot to me," Lamar said. "I wish I could of won a race for Mike (Bonicelli), as his team is used to winning. I hope we can secure some additional sponsorship and make a run at the championship next year. This season taught me a lot and I am more determined than ever to win. I could not have achieved this award without the hard work and dedication of the entire Bonicelli Racing Team, they stuck behind me all season and this Rookie title is a testament to the team."
Lamar claimed the Rookie award, but several drivers distinguished themselves in their Rookie season, including two-time NASCAR Weekly Racing Series Great West Regional Champion Eddy McKean. McKean made the long tow from Jerome, Idaho for every event and if it were not for his failure to submit his Rookie paperwork in Phoenix, he might well have won the title. McKean was the top finishing Rookie five times during the 2001 campaign, including two second place finishes. Brandt was the only Rookie to start all 16 events. Also joining the Rookie class of 2001 were Irwindale Speedway Late Model Hot Shoe, Ben Walker, Spec Truck veteran Joe Herold, Central California's pavement ace, Mike Ledbetter, and go-kart standout Troy Adams.
The entire Rookie class of 2001 plans on returning to the series in 2002 armed with the knowledge that comes from experience. Lamar, McKean, and Brandt all eye the greater prize, to win races and championships. Their experience will guide the next Rookie class on their quest for title and will include drivers like Brandon Miller, Vince Little, and Adam Andretti.
<pre> Final Rookie-of-the-Year Stats
Pos. Driver Rookie Points Points Position Starts Wins Top 5's Top 10's 1. Burney Lamar 121 9th 15 0 1 7 2. Scott Brandt 120 11th 16 0 1 5 3. Eddy McKean 115 5th 15 0 5 8 4. Ben Walker 106 17th 14 0 2 4 5. Mike Ledbetter 96 14th 14 0 0 1 6. Joe Herold 95 18th 13 0 0 3 7. Troy Adams 36 26th 6 0 0 0 </pre> -nascar/fsws-