Evernham finally, formally taps Atwood By Matthew Hood Leach CONCORD, N.C. (May 25, 2000) Different, indeed. Two months after naming 25-year veteran and former NASCAR Winston Cup Series champion Bill Elliott to drive his No. 9 Dodges, Ray ...
Evernham finally, formally taps Atwood By Matthew Hood Leach
CONCORD, N.C. (May 25, 2000) Different, indeed. Two months after naming 25-year veteran and former NASCAR Winston Cup Series champion Bill Elliott to drive his No. 9 Dodges, Ray Evernham announced Elliott's teammate will be a driver who wasn't even born when Elliott began racing in NASCAR's top series.
Thursday morning in Victory Lane at Lowe's Motor Speedway, Evernham tapped 19-year-old Casey Atwood to drive his No. 19 Dodges in the NASCAR Winston Cup Series in 2001. The move confirmed months of speculation about one of the hottest rides in the sport.
Evernham had made no secret of his desire to have Atwood pilot his cars, but contractual details made it difficult to finalize the deal. The pairing of veteran and rookie-to-be is just the mixture Evernham had long asserted he would prefer in his first season as a team owner.
"I certainly had these two guys in mind, but even though you can get a verbal agreement pretty easily, it's a long process," Evernham said. "I've really got to thank some of the people that worked with us on that, Clarence Brewer (Atwood's current team owner) and his people, along with McDonald's and Ford and all the people that have worked through these things with us. It's a rather long process and I'm glad it's over now so I can go build some race cars."
While Evernham expressed relief, Atwood was thrilled to be on the verge of reaching a lifelong dream.
"I'm real honored to be a part of Evernham Motorsports and Dodge," Atwood said. "This is probably one of the greatest days of my life. This is what I've worked for since I started racing. I'm really excited about working with Ray. He was one of the greatest crew chiefs in Winston Cup racing. And being teammates with Bill Elliott, you know he's an awesome driver and he's been around a long time so I'm sure he'll bring a lot of experience.
"Together these guys have over 80 wins, so with Ray's leadership and knowledge and Bill's experience as a driver I'm sure they're gonna be able to teach me a lot. And I'm really looking forward to that. Also, Dodge's commitment to coming back to the Winston Cup Series and winning is unbelievable. As their driver I promise to bring the same commitment to the table in 2001 and try to get this Dodge Dealers Intrepid R/T in Victory Lane as soon as possible."
Atwood is off to a bit of a difficult start in his second full season in the NASCAR Busch Series Grand National Division, but he has already shown flashes of tremendous talent in his young career.
In 1998, at the age of 17, the Nashville, Tenn., native sat on the Bud Pole and finished second at Nashville Speedway USA. He was the youngest driver in series history to qualify in the top spot.
Last year he added another "youngest" to his resume, winning at The Milwaukee Mile nearly two months before his 19th birthday. Atwood won again at Dover Downs International Speedway later that season, making him one of only five series regulars to win more than once in '99. He also added two Bud Poles before the season was out.
Atwood struggled at the beginning of the 2000 season, finishing 31st and 32nd in the year's first two races. He didn't post a top-10 in the first six events of the year, but since then he has run well. The No. 27 Castrol GTX Chevrolet has finished in the top-10 in three of the last six races, and has not placed lower than 24th in any race in that span. Atwood has climbed to 13th in the series standings.
In his NASCAR Busch Series career, the youngster has two wins, five Bud Poles, six top-5s and 13 top-10s in 56 starts.