Casey Atwood Rockingham II preview

Casey Atwood looks to keep running in front at 'The Rock' ROCKINGHAM, N.C. (October 31, 2001) - With his first place start in last week's Dura Lube 400 at Phoenix International Raceway, Casey Atwood became the youngest pole winner in the modern...

Casey Atwood looks to keep running in front at 'The Rock'

ROCKINGHAM, N.C. (October 31, 2001) - With his first place start in last week's Dura Lube 400 at Phoenix International Raceway, Casey Atwood became the youngest pole winner in the modern era of NASCAR. The rookie driver of the No. 19 Dodge Dealers Intrepid R/T just turned 21 in late August, but his young age certainly didn't affect his performance last weekend.

Atwood's Dodge looked dominating throughout last weekend's race before tire troubles forced the No. 19 car in for an extra pit stop. Atwood got back out on the lead lap and fought for a respectable 14th place finish by the end of the day. Not only was he the top-qualifying rookie, but also he was the top-finishing rookie in the race for the fifth time this season.

If the No. 19 team of Evernham Motorsports can get another strong setup on Atwood's Dodge this week in Rockingham, Atwood should have the experience to put it to good use. Sunday will mark the rookie's eighth appearance at the track, including six Busch Grand National starts in which Atwood has one top five and two 10 finishes over three years. In last February's Kmart/Dura Lube 400, Atwood moved up from his 24th place start to finish 18th in his first Winston Cup run at the track.

Casey Atwood, driver of the No. 19 Dodge Dealers Intrepid R/T

How do you feel in the second half of the season, returning to tracks for a second time?
"I feel like I'm going to be better at some of these tracks. Going to them the first time, you really don't know what to expect with the car or track. Now that I've been to most of the tracks, we'll go back with more experience and probably run a little better. We did okay at Rockingham earlier, I think we can be better this weekend. We're coming off of a great week in Phoenix and that should help our confidence going in."

Have you maintained a consistent driving style since the beginning of the year?
"I've been a pretty smart driver all year, and that's the only way you can gain respect. You run up there and show them you're not going to do anything stupid and just make them where they're not scared to race with you. I feel like I've been doing that for a while. I want to be one of those drivers that people like to race with and don't mind being around and you can have a good race with them."

You made an impressive run last week. How did that feel?
"I was real happy with our performance last week in Phoenix. I was happy for Dodge and all our sponsors and Evernham Motorsports. We got the pole and then it looked like we were going to finish the race in the top three. Everything started off really well and we thought we're going to close it out really well, but it was just bad luck again."

Casey Atwood By the Numbers:

* This will be Atwood's second Winston Cup Series visit to North Carolina Speedway, but his eighth visit overall. Atwood has competed in six Busch Grand National races at Rockingham from 1998 to 2000. His top finish came in the 1999 ALLTEL 200, where he moved from a 14th place start to finish 5th. In this year's Dura Lube 400 in February, Atwood improved on his 23rd place start to finish 18th on the day, cracking his second top 20 finish in as many races.

* Last week in Phoenix, Atwood started in the pole position for the first time in his Winston Cup career, but had his dominating run spoiled by tire troubles. The rookie started the race next to fellow Dodge driver John Andretti for an all-Dodge front row, and led 71 laps before cutting a tire on lap 195 of the 312-lap race. He pitted and fought his way back to the lead lap, finishing in a respectable 14th place. The top-qualifying and top-finishing rookie on the day moved up four spots in the points standings to 29th.

* Casey Atwood became the youngest pole winner in the modern era of NASCAR when he won the Bud Pole for last weekend's Checker Auto Parts 500 at Phoenix. In the 23rd annual Budweiser Shootout at Daytona next year, Atwood will become the youngest competitor in the race's history.

* The Dura Lube 400 was the third Winston Cup Series race that Atwood has led a lap in. He led 13 laps at New Hampshire in July - the first laps led in his Winston Cup career. He also led a lap earlier in the month at Martinsville. Atwood's 86 laps led for the year put him 4th among all 10 Dodges.

* With the money earned from last week's Dura Lube 400 in Phoenix, Atwood has passed the $1.5 million earnings mark (including bonus money from Daytona and Charlotte). Atwood earned over $1.4 million in his three-year Busch Grand National Series career.

* For the season, Atwood has been the top rookie qualifier nine times -- Texas, Martinsville, Pocono (twice), Indianapolis, Phoenix and the second races at Daytona, Michigan, and Richmond. Atwood has been the top rookie finisher five times -- Bristol, Richmond, Pocono (second race), Michigan (second race) and Phoenix. His average start is 20th and his average finish is 26th.

-EM-

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Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Casey Atwood