Young Casey Smith Nearly Pulls Off Rookie Upset at Atlanta His Team Never Gave Up Despite Entering Event Fourth in RoY Standings AUSTIN, TX (November 3, 2004) -- Going into the final ASA National Tour event of the season at Atlanta Motor...
Young Casey Smith Nearly Pulls Off Rookie Upset at Atlanta
His Team Never Gave Up Despite Entering Event Fourth in RoY Standings
AUSTIN, TX (November 3, 2004) -- Going into the final ASA National Tour event of the season at Atlanta Motor Speedway, Casey Smith was a long shot for the Rookie of the Year award. He entered the race mathematically able to take the season-long honor, but had three other competitors ahead of him in the point tally. But anything can happen in the racing world. Nobody would have expected the Boston Red Sox to come from three games down in the playoffs to win the World Series after all. So Smith's team didn't give up. They might have been underdogs, but they weren't going to play dead.
Their faith and hard work was almost rewarded in not only the Rookie of the Year award, but the Atlanta race win. Smith worked his way to the lead pack in the race from his 11th-place starting spot and was looking to do the highly unlikely and win the race and award. However, a few inches of racing room that wasn't there ended his chances at the RoY crown as well as the race victory.
On lap 28, Smith had moved all the way to second place. Reed Sorenson tucked in behind him and together they attempted to draft past leader Jay Middleton. Unfortunately, contact between the three cars resulted in an accident that ended Smith's evening.
"I was moving all around trying to get around Middleton on the backstretch and he was doing everything he needed to do to block me," said Smith. "When we came off of two, I had a run on him so I thought he was giving me the high line, but then he moved up. So I went low and he moved low so I went back high. I really wasn't trying to pass him anymore at that point; I was just trying to stop from wrecking him. When he moved back high I was already on the outside of him. Reed was bump-drafting with me and once he turned into the fence, Reed got into me and turned me sideways."
To come so close and have things go wrong was tough for the 19-year-old driver to take, but he accepted his fate with class.
"We had Rookie of the Year won if we could have just led a lap there and finished up front," said Smith. "That didn't happen, but we know that we did everything that we could to win this race."
Smith had an impressive rookie year. Instead of tearing up a lot of equipment, he was gentle on his car. His family-owned #19 team only had one racecar for the entire season and until the final two races of the season, Smith wasn't involved in a single wreck all year long.
At Lowe's Motor Speedway, Smith qualified fifth and was fast in practice. With less than a minute before the final practice ended, he hit some oil on the track and wrecked. His team pulled an all-nighter and returned two hours before the race with a rebuilt car that finished in the top 10.
Then came the wreck at Atlanta. NASCAR Nextel Cup and Busch Series teams were spectators at both events and Smith hopes that maybe somebody got the chance to observe the effort of he and his team, even if the final results did not show it.
"It's a shame because we went all year without wrecking a car in a race and these last two races have been total heck with us. I really wanted to do good here in front of everyone. I know it wasn't my fault so that is the main thing. I hope other people saw that too."
When he was near the front, Smith really enjoyed the view.
"It was awesome to run that well," Smith said. "I think Reed was a little better than me but that is all. It was awesome. Joe Shear was on the radio with me and he was just coaching me along there."