Woody: Atwood Wonders and Hopes
By Larry Woody | Senior Writer
Casey Atwood stands in the garage area, watching the swirl of activity around him, and thinks of what might have been.
The young Nashville driver burst onto the national scene in 2000 when he was signed by Ray Evernham as Bill Elliott’s teammate on Evernham’s fledging race team. Elliott and Atwood – the wily old vet and the talent-oozing teenager – would lead Dodge’s ballyhooed re-entry into NASCAR’s big leagues.
Atwood almost won a couple of races during his 2001 rookie season (his best finish was 3rd) and picked up a pole at Phoenix.
Then, just when it seemed that he was living up to his press clippings, something happened. Atwood’s still not sure what.
Evernham decided to put Jeremy Mayfield in Atwood’s car, relegating Atwood to a third car that he said was never competitive. That was the beginning of the end of Atwood’s Cup career, the start of his flameout.
This season he is driving a limited schedule in the second-tier Nationwide Series, piloting a car fielded by Wayne Day out of his backyard shop in Goodlettsville, Tenn. That’s a long way, in more ways than one, from basking in the glow that once was Evernham Motorsports.
“I still don’t know exactly what went wrong, but I have no hard feelings toward Ray or anybody else,” Atwood said recently. “For whatever reason things didn’t work out the way any of us had hoped. The past is past and it doesn’t do any good to keep digging it up.”
There were whispers that Atwood, 18 at the time and inexperienced with national exposure, didn’t handle his media and sponsor obligations very well. But media members who dealt with him tended to come away impressed.
If there was a problem, Atwood says nobody told him.
Atwood is married and he and wife Laura have two daughters, Kaylee (three) and Emma (one). Atwood divides his time between his family, fishing and golf.
And racing. He hasn’t given up racing.
“I get in a car every chance I get,” he says. “I appreciate the chance that Wayne Day gave me this year. Obviously he has limited resources so we’re limited in what we can realistically hope to accomplish. But there’s some smart people involved with this team and I think we do pretty well with what we have to work with.”
Atwood has not surrendered his dream of someday returning to the Cup series.
“I know I can race on that level if I get a chance,” he says. “All I can do is try to make sure people know I’m still around and still interested in driving. Who knows when something might come up? I want to be ready if the opportunity comes along.”
Watch and wait – that’s about all he can do. And wonder what might have been.2 Comments