Burney Lamar Eyes Oct. 13 Dollar General 300
It's not because the 25-year-old native of West Sacramento, Calif., is superstitious. The date has been circled because that's when the NASCAR Busch Series rookie will drive the No. 77 Dollar General Chevrolet in the Dollar General 300.
The race is an opportunity for Lamar and his Kevin Harvick Inc. team to have a strong performance in front of the corporate executives who support their efforts. It's also a chance for Lamar to rebound from a tough outing in May's CARQUEST Auto Parts 300 where a crash during practice forced him into a back-up car for the race.
"We're building good cars at KHI and we had a really good car that we didn't get to race there in May," Lamar said. "I'm looking forward to going back. KHI is building a lot of nice race cars right now and I'm looking forward to getting back on track at Charlotte."
Lamar started racing at age 5 in go-karts and within nine years had claimed 25 track championships and three International Karting Federation Regional titles.
"My dad and I got into racing go-karts to spend time together," Lamar said. "From there, we were racing every weekend and the next thing you knew; I was 15 years old and had been racing go-karts for 10 years.
"I'd done everything there was to do in go-karts, so we decided to move up to stock cars. We raced locally for three years, then I got into sprint cars and then the AutoZone Elite Series, and that's when I got picked up by Kevin and DeLana (Harvick)."
Participating in the Toyota All-Star Showdown at Irwindale Speedway late in 2004, Lamar's third-place finish garnered a great deal of attention. He didn't realize how much until he heard from the Harvicks.
"Talk about being in the right place at the right time," Lamar said. "Millions of kids across the United States have the talent; they just don't get the opportunity.
"That's something I got with the Shootout there at Irwindale. We had a good showing and that was about the same time Kevin and DeLana were putting together a development program and that's when we got hooked up."
Signed to a development program with the Harvicks for 2005, Lamar won a pair of NASCAR West Series races, in addition to the Copper World Classic in a Southwest Series car. All told, he ran 14 Southwest Series events and four races in the West Series, along with an ARCA start and two races each in the Craftsman Truck and Busch Series.
Last November, Lamar was introduced as the driver of the No. 77 Dollar General entry as Kevin Harvick Inc. expanded to a pair of full-time Busch Series entries.
Lamar's life has changed considerably since joining KHI, but the graduate of California State University at Sacramento isn't complaining.
"I'm out here racing with the best NASCAR has to offer almost every week, and two years ago I was sitting at home on the couch watching all these races on TV," Lamar said. "So to get hooked up with Dollar General and to be racing in the Busch Series full-time is really exciting."
But the NASCAR Busch Series is fiercely competitive and Lamar has experienced a steep learning curve.
"The Busch Series is pretty tough," he said. "It used to be a development series for the Cup Series, but now at some races over half the field is made of Cup drivers. But it makes me a better driver racing against people like Kevin Harvick."
Kevin and DeLana Harvick have surrounded their young driver with a team of experienced veterans. Crew chief Gene Nead won last year's NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series championship with Ted Musgrave, and Lamar's teammates in KHI's No. 33 have been Tony Stewart, Ron Hornaday, Ron Fellows and Harvick himself.
"If you're surrounded by good people, you're going to be better," Harvick said. "This thing is all about people. Someone in Burney's shoes, he can ask any of us questions at any time and probably get a pretty good answer. Experience helps."
Lamar says being able to turn to his teammates who have countless laps around tracks he's seeing for either the first or second time has proven invaluable.
"The biggest thing is learning the characteristics of each race track," Lamar explained. "In Atlanta during qualifying I almost didn't lift at all. I talked to Kevin about where I should lift, if I should use any brake and, if so, how much. Just talking to him, we were pretty good right off the truck. That's the biggest thing, just figuring out the line and how to work the pedals the first practice. Listening to Kevin is easy."
Tickets for the Dollar General 300 on Friday night, Oct. 13, start at $17 and can be obtained by calling 1-800-455-FANS or online.