WS: Strong rookie field

Large Field of Drivers Contend for Rookie Title in NASCAR Grand National Division, West Series DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (March 21, 2005) - The battle for the Rookie of the Year Award this year in the NASCAR Grand National Division, ...

Large Field of Drivers Contend for Rookie Title in NASCAR Grand National Division, West Series

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (March 21, 2005) - The battle for the Rookie of the Year Award this year in the NASCAR Grand National Division, West Series has attracted a large field of freshman competitors with varied backgrounds.

Featured among the 10 drivers who have registered for this year's rookie program is IndyCar Series veteran Sarah Fisher of Indianapolis. This year's freshman class also includes David Cardey of Riverside, Calif.; Spencer Clark of Las Vegas; Jason Jefferson of Naches, Wash.; Andrew Lewis of Corona, Calif.; Brandon Miller of Bakersfield, Calif.; Rick Ruzbarsky of Tracy, Calif.; Andrew Myers of Newport Beach, Calif.; Chris Schmelzle of Vancouver, British Columbia; and Tim Smith of Roseville, Calif.

Cardey began his racing career at 5 years of age. After initially competing on bicycles - he went on to race motorcycles, quads and go-karts. He has raced mini sprints since 2001, winning the 2003 championship in the California Lightning Sprints. The 29-year-old driver raced a sprint car in 2004, while also competing in four events in the NASCAR Grand National Division, West Series.

Clark is an 18-year-old second-generation competitor. His father, T.J. Clark, was a multi-time karting champion and was a regular in the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series. The younger Clark started racing at the age of 5, competing in the Mickey Thompson Pee Wee Motorcycle Series. He moved on to race go-karts for several years and then raced the Legends series, where he garnered several championships. He raced a regional truck series in 2003, while also racing and winning the rookie title in the NASCAR Super Late Model Division at The Bullring at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

Fisher, who is making the transition from open-wheel racing to stock cars, is a three-time winner of the Indy Racing League's Most Popular Driver Award. In 2000, she became only the third woman to qualify for the Indianapolis 500. She finished second in an IndyCar Series event at Homestead Miami Speedway in 2001 and won a pole position a year later at Kentucky Speedway. Fisher, 24, grew up racing quarter-midgets, go-karts and eventually sprint cars. Her rookie campaign in the West Series this year is part of a driver development program between Bill McAnally Racing and Richard Childress Racing, in conjunction with the Drive for Diversity program endorsed by NASCAR.

Jefferson is the younger son of George Jefferson, a well-known car owner and crew chief in the Pacific Northwest. At 29 years old, the younger Jefferson has gathered five championships in the late model division at tracks in the NASCAR Dodge Weekly Series. In his rookie season in the NASCAR AutoZone Elite Division, Northwest Series in 2003 - he finished second in the championship standings to his older brother Jeff. That season he also won the first race he entered in the NASCAR Grand National Division, West Series.

At 18 years of age, Lewis has a racing resume that includes competition in several divisions at numerous tracks in the Midwest and West Coast. After initially racing in go-karts - he went on to compete in the Bandolero series, where he won a rookie title in 1999. He also raced the Legends series, winning a national title in 2001. He spent the 2004 season challenging the competition in the NASCAR Late Model division at Irwindale (Calif.) Speedway.

Miller brings with him an extensive racing background. The 23-year-old driver has competed in go-karts, garnering numerous championships; off-road vehicles; late model and super late model stock cars, winning the track championship in the NASCAR Dodge Weekly Series at Mesa Marin Raceway in Bakersfield, Calif., in 1993; the NASCAR AutoZone Elite Division, Southwest Series; the NASCAR Grand National Division, West Series; the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series and the NASCAR Busch Series. In addition to his West Coast effort, Miller is competing in selected events for Richard Childress Racing in the NASCAR Busch Series this season.

Myers started his racing career on water - competing on a jet ski from 1993 to 1997. A year later he switched his focus to off-road competition, where he won titles in Baja and Nevada in 2000. He made the transition to stock cars in 2003, winning the rookie of the year award in the NASCAR Late Model division at Irwindale Speedway. The 25-year-old driver finished fourth overall in that division for 2004. He made his debut in the NASCAR Grand National Division, West Series this year at Phoenix.

Ruzbarsky has competed in a variety of vehicles since he began racing in 1997. His recent experience includes late model stock cars in a regional series in Northern California and selected events in the NASCAR AutoZone Elite Division, Southwest Series. Ruzbarsky has competed at NASCAR tracks throughout California. The 39-year-old driver finished 12th last season in his first race in the NASCAR Grand National Division, West Series.

Since beginning his racing career in 1990 - Schmelzle has raced stock cars, modifieds, midgets and sprint cars. In addition to competing at his hometown track in Canada, his racing has taken him to Southern California, Arizona and Nevada. Schmelzle, 30, made his debut in the NASCAR Grand National Division, West Series with this year's season opener at Phoenix.

Smith, who partners with Steve Schaefer as the S&S Motorsports team, has a varied racing background. He began competing on motorcycles while still in school. He raced a jet ski tour from 1985 to 1991. Smith raced dirt, sprint and enduro go-karts from 1991-1995. He focused his attention in recent years on racing modifieds and late models. Smith, 36, scored a third-place finish last season in one of just five events he raced in the West Series.

The 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 10 best finishes for each eligible rookie will be used in determining the winner.

The winner of this year's 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. Second-generation competitor David Gilliland won the prestigious title last year, while finishing third in the overall championship standings.

The next event on the NASCAR Grand National Division, West Series schedule is the Lucas Oil 150 at Mesa Marin Raceway in Bakersfield, Calif., on April 9. The event, which will be televised to a national audience live in high definition on HDNet, is part of a big night of racing on the high-banked half-mile track that will also feature the NASCAR AutoZone Elite Division, Southwest Series.

-nascar-

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About this article
Series NASCAR
Drivers Derrike Cope , Sarah Fisher , Chad Little , Rick Carelli , Andrew Lewis , Brandon Miller , Rick Ruzbarsky , Jason Jefferson , Andrew Myers
Teams Richard Childress Racing