Westward Ho

While Scott Lynch and Ryan Moore battled each other for the lead through the final turns of the last lap, Burney Lamar slipped to the inside to snatch the victory in the Casino Arizona 150 at Phoenix International Raceway on Thursday, April 21.

The victory in the inaugural NASCAR race under the lights at PIR gave Lamar his first career series win in only his second NASCAR Grand National Division, West Series race. It also provided team owner Kevin Harvick with a victory in the series in which he won the championship as a driver in 1998.

Lamar -- who had faded after leading 63 laps earlier in the race -- took advantage of two late-race cautions and a last lap scramble to catch the leaders and slip by for the win.

"I knew we had a good car on the restarts," he said. "I had (Rick) Carelli on the radio telling me, 'Watch out. They might push up and I could sneak by.' That's exactly what happened."

Carelli, the 1993 series champion, and Harvick have both stressed the philosophy of not giving up, according to Lamar.

"That's one thing that Rick and Kevin taught me," said the 24-year-old driver from West Sacramento, Calif. "You never give up. It worked tonight."

Although Lamar's HPS/Groeniger-sponsored Chevrolet appeared to be the car to beat for much of the race, it was Mike Duncan who won the Bud Pole Award with a lap of 126.65 mph in the Lucas Oil/Ron's Rear Ends Chevrolet. It marked his second consecutive fast-time mark and his 11th career Bud Pole. Duncan led the first 38 circuits, before Dale Quarterley took charge as the pair charged around lapped traffic. Lamar, who had shadowed them in third, moved to the lead on lap 49 and remained there until the leaders headed to the pits for fresh tires and fuel during a caution on lap 68.

A pit stop during a previous caution allowed Brett Thompson to remain on track and assume the lead. Lamar was back out front by lap 90, however, and pulled away with a sizable lead. Moore closed down that margin and moved by for the lead on lap 133. Lynch, who started 19th on the grid, had been moving to the front the entire race and charged into the lead on lap 143.

The field was bunched by the first of two late-race cautions when the yellow flew on lap 148 - twice extending the event for a green-white-checkered finish. Lynch and Moore waged a fierce battle in the final two laps. As they came in contact in turn three on the final lap, the pair slid up the track, allowing Lamar to slip by to the inside. He crossed the stripe with a margin of victory of .185 of a second, at an average speed of 89.716 mph to win $11,000.

Lynch of Burley, Idaho, was second in the Mr. Gas Dodge, followed by Moore of Scarborough, Me., in the R.C. Moore Transportation Chevrolet. Steve Portenga of Sparks, Nev., was fourth in the NAPA/NAPA Belts & Hose Chevrolet, followed by series rookie Spencer Clark of Las Vegas in the Allegiant Air Ford. Completing the top 10 were Quarterley, Tim Woods III, Jose Luis Ramirez, Andrew Myers and Rick Ruzbarsky. Moore and Quarterley were part of a trio of drivers from the NASCAR Grand National Division, Busch North Series, including Ted Christopher, who made the trek to compete at Phoenix.

The race featured seven lead changes among six drivers. The pace of the event was slowed by seven cautions for 33 laps.

With his runner-up finish, Lynch took over the lead in the championship standings. He tops the chart with 489 points, followed by Portenga with 463. Duncan is third with 441, while Mike David is fourth with 435. David Gilliland, who led the standings coming into the event, was sidelined early with mechanical trouble and finished 29th, dropping him to fifth in the standings with 431 points. Rounding out the top 10 are Woods at 388, Thompson at 372, Myers at 371, Andrew Lewis at 365 and Ruzbarsky at 358.

Despite falling off the lead lap with a flat tire late in the event, Lewis leads a tight battle for the Sunoco Rookie of the Year Award. He has 24 points, followed by Myers with 22, Ruzbarsky with 20, Clark with 19 and Jason Jefferson with 17. Sarah Fisher and David Cardey are even with 15 each. They are followed by Tim Smith with six, Brandon Miller with four and Chris Schmelzle with three.

The next event on the NASCAR Grand National Division, West Series schedule is the AutoZone Twin Championships presented by Havoline at Stockton (Calif.) 99 Speedway on April 30. The event, part of a big NASCAR doubleheader on the historic quarter-mile oval, will be televised live in high definition on HDNet. In addition, an enhanced replay will air on SPEED Channel.

**NASCAR PR

Related Topics:

NASCAR Sprint Cup, 2005

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