WS: Rookie of the Year contenders

International Field Battles for Auto Meter Rookie of the Year DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (April 7, 2004) - A large contingent of talented rookie drivers, representing four different countries, are taking aim this year at the Auto Meter...

International Field Battles for Auto Meter Rookie of the Year

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (April 7, 2004) - A large contingent of talented rookie drivers, representing four different countries, are taking aim this year at the Auto Meter Rookie of the Year Award in the NASCAR Grand National Division, West Series.

Nine drivers have registered for this year's program, in which the top eligible rookie on the series will collect a $3,000 bonus along with a package of Auto Meter products (includes: 1-4494 Tachometer, 1-4461 electric full sweep fuel pressure gauge, 1-4453 electric full sweep oil pressure gauge, 1-4456 electric full sweep oil temperature gauge and an 1-4455 electric full sweep water temperature gauge) valued at more than $1,000.

The Auto Meter Rookie of the Year Award will be determined by a rookie competition point system. At each event, the highest-finishing eligible rookie receives 10 points, the second-highest rookie receives nine points, the third highest receives eight points, and so on. At the end of the season, the 11 best finishes for each eligible rookie will be used in determining the winner.

This year's freshman class includes Nick DeFazio of Newport Beach, Calif.; David Gilliland of Riverside, Calif.; Carl Harr of Edmonton Alberta, Canada; his son, Daryl Harr of St Albert, Alberta, Canada; Tavo (C.T.) Hellmund of Mexico City, Mexico; Takuma Koga of Nagoya, Japan; Jose Luis Ramirez of Mexico City, Mexico; Brian Richardson of Bakersfield, Calif.; and Alfredo Tame of Mexico City, Mexico.

DeFazio comes to the West Series with an extensive background racing go-karts. The 20-year-old driver's karting resume, which features three national championships, includes competition throughout the U.S. and overseas - racing in Belgium, Italy and England. DeFazio's experience in stock cars includes the Super Late Model division at Irwindale (Calif.) Speedway. After racing two events in the West Series in 2003, he has had a successful start this season by scoring a top-10 finish in the second race of 2004.

Gilliland is no stranger to the West Series. He won the championship crew chief award when his father, Butch Gilliland, won the series championship in 1997. The younger Gilliland brings with him plenty of experience behind the wheel of a stock car - competing on the dirt oval at Perris (Calif.) Speedway, as well as Irwindale Speedway. The 28-year-old driver scored five wins last season in the NASCAR AutoZone Elite Division, Southwest Series. He entered this year with 16 starts in the West Series between 1997 and 2002, including one top-five finish. Gilliland has already reached victory lane this year - winning the second race of the season.

Carl Harr and his son, Daryl, race as a family-owned two-car team for WestWorld Motorsports. Both are champions in Canada's CASCAR Western Series, with 50-year-old Carl taking the title in 2001 and 21-year-old Daryl winning it in 2002. In addition, Daryl won the rookie title in 1998 and was named Most Popular in 2000. Each of them competed in 12 West Series races prior to this season. Both drivers recently notched a career-best finish in the second race of 2004, with Daryl finishing 8th and Carl coming home 9th.

Hellmund holds the distinction of winning his debut race in the West Series, scoring a victory on the road course in Monterey, Calif., in 2001. The 34-year-old driver, who previously competed in various classes of racing in Texas, also accumulated four top-five finishes in six West Series races prior to this season.

Koga, who goes by the nickname of Tak, lives near Tokyo in the city of Nagoya. Like many other competitors, he started his racing career in go-karts. His resume also includes action in Formula Toyota and Formula 3 cars. He made his NASCAR debut in 2001, racing in five events that season in the NASCAR AutoZone Elite Division, Northwest Series. The 27-year-old driver raced in six West Series events prior to this year, scoring a career-best 14th-place finish in Monroe, Wash.

Ramirez has won two championships - competing in various divisions since he started racing in 1987. In addition to karting, he has raced Formula Reynard, Trans Am, a Ford Mustang series and a regional truck series in his native Mexico. The 24-year-old driver made his series debut in the season-opener at Phoenix in January.

Richardson cut his teeth in racing on the high-banks of Mesa Marin Raceway in his hometown. He began racing in 1997 in the street stock division and later graduated to late models. Richardson, 28, went on to capture the late model championship at the half-mile track last season, while also finishing second in the Sunbelt Region of the NASCAR Dodge Weekly Series. He made his debut in the West Series at Mesa Marin Raceway in the season finale.

Tame has competed in various classes - including go-karts, F3000, touring cars and prototypes at tracks in Mexico, Europe, France and Germany. In addition, he has also raced in NASCAR's Southwest Series. The 30-year-old driver made his debut in the West Series at Phoenix last October.

The winner of this year's Auto Meter Rookie of the Year title in the West Series will join the ranks of drivers such as Derrike Cope, Chad Little, Rick Carelli, Jim Bown and Bill Sedgwick. Last year, Scott Lynch became just the second driver in the 50-year history of the series to win the overall championship in his rookie year.

-nascar-

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About this article
Series NASCAR
Drivers Derrike Cope , Rick Carelli , Scott Lynch , Daryl Harr , Carl Harr , David Gilliland