Pocono II: Race report

Atwood prevails in Pocono Pepsi ARCA 200. LONG POND PA (7-27-02) by Don Radebaugh - Casey Atwood, in Ray Evernham's Dodge Dealers Dodge, overhauled Jason Jarrett with nine laps remaining to win the Pepsi ARCA 200 Saturday at Pocono ...

Atwood prevails in Pocono Pepsi ARCA 200.

LONG POND PA (7-27-02) by Don Radebaugh - Casey Atwood, in Ray Evernham's Dodge Dealers Dodge, overhauled Jason Jarrett with nine laps remaining to win the Pepsi ARCA 200 Saturday at Pocono Raceway.

Atwood, armed with Winston Cup technology, confidence and a few late-race cautions, charged from the back to the front in relatively short order to earn his career-first ARCA RE/MAX Series victory in his first attempt.

"It's special for my career," said Atwood in victory lane. "I'm only 21 years old. Obviously my Busch wins are special, but my ultimate goal is to win a Winston Cup race and Winston Cup championship, and until that happens I'm not really going to be satisfied. I think we learned a lot this weekend and it's going to help us in the future."

Atwood pitted under caution for fresh tires inside of 20 laps from the finish while the remaining front-runners stayed out. However, with 18 cars still on the lead lap, the eventual winner found himself mired deep in traffic as the race went back to green while Jarrett, with Robert Burroughs, Mario Gosselin and Bobby Gerhart in tow, charged out to a huge lead. And while Atwood steadily picked off cars one by one, Jarrett increased his lead by a wide margin with the field stretching out even more behind him. Then Atwood got the breaks he could only hope for when three back-to-back cautions for minor incidents and debris kept the field continually bunched. With that many opportunities, fresher tires and top-notch technology, it didn't take Atwood long to reel in Jarrett and make his winning pass entering turn one. Jarrett, in the Biomet-Damon RV Chevrolet, had to settle for second.

"Definitely, with all those caution flags there, towards the end, I kind of knew it would give him (Atwood) a chance to get up close and eventually pass me," said Jarrett. "I knew I was a sitting duck. But my dad (Dale Jarrett) kept telling me on the radio, I was as good or better than the rest of them, as long as I was out front there. He (Atwood) had the car and he showed it when it counted most."

Gosselin, in his career-first Pocono start, finished a solid third in the Cable Network-Motorola-Comscope Chevrolet with Gerhart posting his career-best Pocono finish in fourth in the Garden Spot Auto Auction-James Chevrolet. Shelby Howard, the impressive 16-year-old rookie from Greenwood, Indiana, finished fifth, a career-best RE/MAX Series finish in his father Shelby Sr.'s unsponsored Dodge. Burroughs, very much in the hunt all day, broke a transmission with eight laps remaining while running third relegating the Laurel, Mississippi driver to 24th in the final running order.

Atwood started from the Old Milwaukee Pole and led the first 46 laps with series point leader Frank Kimmel and rookie standout Chad Blount in pursuit. Through two rounds of pit stops, Kimmel and Blount maintained pace with the leader until both machines fell off the pace with sour engines.

"We dropped a cylinder, a rocker arm or a valve spring," Kimmel said. "We turned it up a notch to compete with Casey. We just paid the price for it." While Kimmel soldiered to the finish in 13th, Blount, with similar troubles, finished 14th.

While most of the leaders pitted just twice during the 80-lap, 200-mile race, it was Atwood's third pit stop near the conclusion that shuffled the Statesville, North Carolina driver deep in the pack with time running out.

In all, there were six lead changes among five drivers to include Billy Venturini, Kimmel and Gerhart while seven cautions slowed the race for 28 laps, all for minor incidents. In the end, 15 cars finished on the lead lap.

Brent Sherman, in the Hickory Farms-Serta Mattress Chevrolet, finished a career-best sixth in front of Hesston, Pennsylvania driver Tom Eriksen who rebounded from an earlier frontstretch spin to finish seventh in the Camair Chevrolet. Mt. Juliet, Tennessee rookie Chase Montgomery finished eighth in his father Ray Montgomery's Chevy with Jason Rudd trailing in ninth in the Graybar Electric Dodge. Retired Pennsylvania state trooper CW Smith finished 10th in the Panasonic Chevrolet. Deborah Renshaw, in her second RE/MAX Series start, fought off a variety of mechanical gremlins to finish 11th in the Bob Schacht Motorsports Ford. Soddy Daisy, Tennessee driver Ron Cox earned the Hoosier Tire Hard Charger honors for his 12th place finish after starting 30th.

Atwood, in addition to his winner's purse, picked up the Loctite Halfway Leader Award as well as the National Pork Board Pole-Win bonus for winning from the pole.

-arca-

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Series ARCA
Drivers Dale Jarrett , Casey Atwood , Frank Kimmel , Chad Blount , Chase Montgomery , Bobby Gerhart , Jason Jarrett , Shelby Howard , Ron Cox , Brent Sherman , Deborah Renshaw , Mario Gosselin , Jason Rudd , Bob Schacht