Atwood Homestead preview

MIAMI (Nov. 6, 2000) -- A yellow stripe designating rookie status will adorn the back of the No. 19 Motorola Evernham Motorsports car, but driver Casey Atwood has chalked up more experience at Homestead-Miami Speedway than his team owner and crew...

MIAMI (Nov. 6, 2000) -- A yellow stripe designating rookie status will adorn the back of the No. 19 Motorola Evernham Motorsports car, but driver Casey Atwood has chalked up more experience at Homestead-Miami Speedway than his team owner and crew chief Ray Evernham.

In his 1998 NASCAR Busch Series, Grand National Division debut, Atwood captured the pole at Homestead with a speed of 148.262 mph and finished 14th. In '99, he started 10th and finished 34th. In contrast, Evernham has yet to coach a team at Homestead, a track added to the NASCAR Winston Cup Series schedule last year.

"I may be a rookie at Homestead, but I will not wear a yellow stripe on my backside," Evernham said.

"Our test at Homestead went well," Evernham continued. "Casey was comfortable and more prepared then we were. Since I haven't raced at Homestead, I talked to the people who built the track and asked a lot of questions of the people who have raced there before -- questions about weather conditions, banking and the abrasiveness of the track." Atwood realizes that competing in a few races doesn't mean he has mastered the 1.5-mile facility.

"Even though I've raced at Homestead before, Ray still has more experience than me," Atwood said. "He has raced at similar tracks, like the Brickyard, so I still have a lot to learn from him."

Atwood silenced any doubts concerning his ability to race at the next level with a 19th-place finish at Richmond (Va.) International Raceway Sept. 9 in his first-ever NASCAR Winston Cup Series race. The Motorola team's second race at Martinsville (Va.) Speedway ended with a 22nd-place finish after Atwood cut a tire early in the event. This weekend, Atwood will race in both his last NASCAR Winston Cup Series race of 2000 and the season finale of the NASCAR Busch Series.

"These three races have really helped us get our team together for next year," Atwood said. "I'm looking forward to moving on to Winston Cup full-time, but there are things I'm going to miss about the Busch Series, like my teammates and all of the friends I've made."

The Pennzoil 400 marks the third and final race for the No. 19 Motorola Evernham Motorsports team. Motorola, the Official Communications Company of NASCAR, joined Evernham Motorsports for three races in 2000 to allow the team to gain NASCAR Winston Cup Series experience in preparation for Atwood's 2001 season with Dodge. Patrick Donahue will serve as his crew chief, with Evernham playing an active role developing and analyzing race strategy.

"The last time I felt like a rookie was at my very first car owners meeting," Evernham said. "We talked about testing schedules and budgets -- I felt like the new kid. But the last time that I actually was a rookie was in '93 with Jeff Gordon. I remember not even knowing how to get from Charlotte (N.C.) to Darlington (S.C.). I had to ask someone for directions."

"There's nothing different about being a rookie, except for the yellow stripe on your car," Atwood said. "I've raced with a lot of the Winston Cup guys and I've always shown them respect and they've shown me respect. The only thing I don't like about being a rookie is getting up early for the rookie meetings."

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Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Jeff Gordon , Ray Evernham