Atwood Hopes To Make History At Legendary Speedway INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. (July 31, 2001)- The Indianapolis Motor Speedway was already 70 years old and had hosted 64 runnings of the Indianapolis 500 by the time Casey Atwood was born. Atwood has...
Atwood Hopes To Make History At Legendary Speedway
INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. (July 31, 2001)- The Indianapolis Motor Speedway was already 70 years old and had hosted 64 runnings of the Indianapolis 500 by the time Casey Atwood was born. Atwood has never attended an Indianapolis 500 or met the legendary drivers who have won the event. But, he still knows that racing at the Brickyard is a little different than any other race, and winning at the fabled track is a truly special victory.
This Sunday's Brickyard 400 will be Atwood's first race at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, and he will be the youngest driver to ever compete there in a NASCAR Winston Cup event. Most of Atwood's Indianapolis experience came down the street at IRP, where he raced in the NASCAR Busch Series. The rookie driver is building momentum in the second half of the season, and hopes that continues at Indy. He turned in top 15 finishes at the last two races, led laps for the first time at New Hampshire, and was the top rookie qualifier and finisher this past weekend at Pocono. He favors the flat tracks, and feels the long straight-aways and flat turns of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway should help his performance this weekend.
Casey Atwood, driver of the No. 19 Dodge Dealers Intrepid R/T
What will it be like to race at Indy for the first time?
"I'm pretty excited about going to Indy. Indy really fits my style. It's similar to Pocono, because it's flat and has tight turns. I like the flat tracks, because that's what I grew up on. We're taking a brand new car down there. We tested it down there last week and we were the second fastest the second day. The team took all they've learned this season and put it together in this car. I think we can be top 10 in qualifying and be good in the race.
"Indianapolis is such a historic place. I've watched every NASCAR race there since they started. There have been so many great drivers that have raced there. Ray has had some good luck there, and hopefully that will rub off. There's a lot to do in Indy. Used to, I'd run the Busch race and have the weekend off. Now, my weekend's a little busier. But, I'll probably go watch the USAC race with Ray (Evernham) on Thursday and the Busch race on Saturday. I might go to the speedway museum, too. I hear they have some really cool cars in there."
What is driving the improved performance of the team?
"We're getting a lot more confidence as the season goes on. It's great for everybody on the team when we can be competitive with the good guys out there. It must mean we're doing something right. It's great for everyone's morale when we run with those guys and beat them. I think we're going to have a great second half of the season. We didn't know what to expect the first half, and now we all have some experience the second time around. And, I think I'm a lot better driver now than I was four or five months ago. You really learn fast running with some of those guys out there.
"Having Sammy (Johns) on the team has been a great addition. He brings a lot of experience to our rookie team. We work really good together and our communication is good. That's the key. You've got to be close. I call him every week and we go to dinner together. It really makes a difference. It feels good to have two top 15s in a row. We're starting to show some consistency, which is good. Now, if we can just turn that into a top 10 or some top fives. When you have the kind of car that is capable of running up front, anything can happen. If you're running in the top five, maybe that's when that first win will come."
How will the rules change affect the car and Indy and through the rest of the season?
"The rules change should be good for us, but we've got to get the car out on the track and see how it really works in traffic. The guys have been working since Friday to get the Indy cars redone for this weekend. Once we get the balance right, you should see better racing from us. With the cars now, you get so tight behind somebody that it's really hard to pass."
Casey Atwood By the Numbers:
* Because Indianapolis Motor Speedway does not host the Busch Series, this will be Atwood's first appearance at the track. He tested at the track for the first time last week, and claimed the second fastest time of all participating drivers in his second day of testing.
* In his last two races, Atwood has earned two of his three top 15 finishes this year (12th at New Hampshire, 15th at Pocono). His first came at Richmond, where he finished 12th.
* His fifth place qualifying time at Pocono last week was his second highest of the season. He qualified a career high fourth place at the Pepsi 400 in Daytona. He has qualified in the top five twice in the last four races.
* Atwood led 13 laps at New Hampshire - the first of his Winston Cup career.
* For the season, Atwood has been the top rookie qualifier five times -- Texas, Martinsville, Pocono (twice) and Daytona -- and the top rookie finisher three times -- Bristol, Richmond and Pocono (second race). This week he moved up two spots to 32nd in the points race and remains third in the Raybestos Rookie of the Year battle. His average start is 21.6 and his average finish is 27.