Sacramento driver starts fast
From Sacramento to North Carolina and south of the border to Mexico City, Burney Lamar has many race fans scratching their heads and asking, “Burney who?”
After an impressive second-place finish behind NASCAR Nextel Cup champion Tony Stewart in the Busch Series season opener at Daytona International Speedway in Daytona Beach, Fla., Lamar has finished 21st, 18th, 26th, eighth and 20th in the first six Busch races this year and is currently eighth in the driver’s points standings. Lamar is also in the running for the NASCAR Busch Series/Raybestos Rookie of the Year honors.
So who is this talented young driver?
Burney Lamar, who calls West Sacramento his hometown, began racing at age 5 when his father bought a go-kart so the two of them could have something to do together.
“Next thing you know, due to our competitive nature, we were racing week in and week out,” Lamar said.
The 25-year old driver won 25 track championships and three International Karting Federation Regional Championships by age 14, racing at tracks such as those in Dixon, Davis and Prairie City before moving up to stock cars.
Lamar started to race late-model cars in 1997 at Stockton 99 Speedway in Stockton and won the NASCAR Shell Oil Tri-Track Late Model Championship in 1999. The following year, Lamar’s grandfather – Clyde Lamar, a famous sprint car owner – bought Burney’s first Sprint car. Burney went on to win the 2000 USAC Western States Sprint Car Rookie of the Year honors and finished third in that series championship point standings the same year.
At the age of 21, Lamar was hired to drive a Touring Series car (stock car) in the NASCAR Featherlite Southwest Series; Burney took home the 2001 Rookie of the Year trophy. Lamar continued his success in that series, as he cracked the top 10 in the standings in 2002 and 2003, then placed fourth in the 2004 championship. He won a series-leading five Bud poles in 2004, was the qualifying night winner in the 2004 Toyota All-Star Showdown and finished third overall in that event in a Southwest Series car.
That’s when Lamar caught the eye of Nextel Cup driver Kevin Harvick and his wife Delana, who own Craftsman Truck and Busch Series teams.
In 2005, Kevin Harvick Incorporated (KHI) hired Lamar as part of a driver development program. Lamar raced stock cars in four NASCAR Grand National West Series races, winning two of the events and finishing in the top 10 in his other two starts. He also raced in the 2005 AutoZone Elite Division Southwest Series, winning the first race in Phoenix and finishing fourth in the points standings at the end of the year.
Now this Sacramento native has graduated to the “big leagues,” driving the No. 77 Dollar General Chevrolet for KHI in the NASCAR Busch Series. Lamar says all his previous stock car racing has helped prepare him for this big leap in his career.
“Between the experience at the tracks we’re racing at this year and the experience in a heavier car (in the Grand National West Series), I’m better prepared for this year,” Lamar said.
What’s it like being out on the track, racing against legends like Kenny Schrader, Mark Martin and Michael Waltrip?
Lamar said, “on the racetrack, you don’t think anything about it, you just want to win races, but when you get off the track, it’s like, ‘Whoa! I just finished second to Tony Stewart!”
Like every other racecar driver, Lamar has dreams of making it to the top, which in NASCAR is the Nextel Cup series. And Lamar doesn’t hesitate to thank race fans for their support.
“If it wasn’t for them, we wouldn’t be able to have a dream come true and drive cars for a living,” he said.
For now, Lamar is content to follow the plans for his future as set out by his team owners, the Harvicks.
“I know I’m in good hands,” Lamar said, “and I just want to continue driving for them for as long as they’ll keep me.”
Next stop for the Busch Series, after a well-deserved week off, is the 11Ú2-mile oval track at Texas Motor Speedway. The Busch drivers will share the weekend of April 8-9 with the Nextel Cup Series at “The Great American Speedway” in the Dallas/Ft. Worth area.
Dorothy Talan-Quaid is a Grass Valley freelance journalist. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
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