Atwood shows he can run with the big boys By Shawn A. Akers NASHVILLE, Tenn. (March 15, 1998) - Welcome to the big leagues, Casey Atwood. Atwood, who Saturday became the youngest driver ever to win a NASCAR Busch Series Grand ...
Atwood shows he can run with the big boys By Shawn A. Akers NASHVILLE, Tenn. (March 15, 1998) - Welcome to the big leagues, Casey Atwood.
Atwood, who Saturday became the youngest driver ever to win a NASCAR Busch Series Grand National Division Pole Award, proved Sunday that he belongs running with the big boys. The 17-year-old Antioch, Tenn., native led three times in the BellSouth Mobility/Opryland 320 at Nashville Speedway USA and wound up finishing second in only his second career NASCAR Busch Series start in front of a national television audience.
The No. 28 Chevrolet was running second when the seventh and final caution flag of the day came out on lap 313 for Robert Pressley, who spun out in between Turns 3 and 4 -- and took Mark Green and Ed Berrier with him. The race ended under caution, and Atwood never got a chance to see if he could challenge Mike McLaughlin for the victory. "I think we could have gotten around him," Atwood said. "We'll go get 'em next time. We stayed up front all day. We had a good car. We just needed a little more time, and I think I would have had it. The spotter did a good job in letting me know what happened (with the lap 313 accident)."
Atwood took the point in his No. 28 Red Line Oil three times for 104 laps -- second to Pressley in laps led -- and even pulled away at times when he had clear race track ahead of him.
It was when Atwood got involved in heavy traffic that he encountered problems. At times, he appeared impatient, but never got flustered. Each time he lost the lead it was due to lapped cars.
"I learned a lot today," Atwood said. "This is a whole different division."
Atwood's run made a huge impression on McLaughlin, who earned his first victory of the 1998 season.
"He's a heckuva driver," said McLaughlin, driver of the No. 34 Goulds Pumps Chevrolet Monte Carlo. "He's young, but he's going places. He's run good at other places, not just here, so it's no fluke."
Atwood's first NASCAR Busch Series start came at North Carolina Speedway last month in the GM Goodwrench Service Plus 200. He qualified 15th, and wound up finishing a respectable 21st.
Caution No. 6 came out when Phil Parsons hit the wall with approximately 80 laps to go. When the leaders went into the pits, Atwood pulled in situated in the fifth position. When he came out, he was ninth.
In the final 70 laps, Atwood was able to make his way past series veterans such as Tim Fedewa, Elliott Sadler, Joe Nemechek and Randy LaJoie to grab the runner-up spot.
"The car was fabulous all day," Atwood said. "I've been around this track a lot in the last few years, so I'm not surprised at how well we finished. It was great."
Atwood's next NASCAR Busch Series race will be the Moore's Snacks 250 at Bristol Motor Speedway -- providing another chance to impress the home state folks. Atwood said he will run a total of 15 NASCAR Busch Series races this season, and hopes to put together a limited NASCAR Winston Cup Series slate for 1999.
Source: NASCAR Online