Atwood Named Second Dodge Driver

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CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Team owner and Dodge development partner Ray Evernham announced that Casey Atwood will drive the No. 19 Dodge Dealers Intrepid R/T in 2001.

"Casey Atwood is an incredibly talented young driver," Evernham said. "For 19 years of age, he's got a very good understanding and feel for a race car."

Like other great young drivers in NASCAR today, Atwood started racing at an early age and has distinguished himself at every level since then. He started racing go-karts at age 10 and won local and state championships in Tennessee before moving up to Modified and Late-Model stock cars. He moved to the Busch Series in 1998 and has already won three poles and two races. It was his second Busch Series race that got Evernham's attention.

"Casey broke on the scene in one of his first-ever NASCAR Busch Series races," said Evernham. "He qualified first and almost won the race. That was one of the first times he ever drove a Busch Series car and he was only 17 years old at the time.

"We've followed his progress since then and at a very young age, he's displayed an incredible amount of talent. The more time I spend around him the more I know that his understanding of what a car does will make it easier for the crew chief to set up the car for him."

In driving for Evernham Motorsports next season, Atwood will have as a teammate 1988 Winston Cup Series Champion Bill Elliott. Atwood and Elliott will drive bright red Dodge Intrepid R/Ts sponsored by the 3,000 North American Dodge dealers. The Dodge dealers are the only primary sponsors to support two cars in the Winston Cup Series.

The United Auto Workers (UAW) National Training Center is an associate sponsor of the cars.

"The whole Dodge development team is thrilled about the potential of having Ray Evernham, Bill Elliott and Casey Atwood working together as part of the our NASCAR Winston Cup program," said Lou Patane, vice president, Motorsports Operations and Mopar Performance Parts. "In less than two full seasons of Busch Series racing, Casey has shown that he has a lot of talent. It's stimulating to think what he'll be able to do with support and tutoring from veterans like Evernham and Elliott."

"Having Casey Atwood and Bill Elliott on the same team gives us a wonderful combination of youth and experience," added Evernham. "Their very different perspectives will be an asset to the team, and they have the talent and the drive to push the Dodge Winston Cup program forward very quickly."

"I've been a big race fan all my life," said Atwood. "When I was growing up and watching NASCAR races on television, Bill Elliott was one of the top drivers and I've always looked up to him. I'm looking forward to learning from him."

Atwood also likes the chemistry with team owner Ray Evernham.

"He knows how to communicate really well," said Atwood. "And he knows how to handle a young driver. He asks good questions. If he asks the right questions, I can give him the answers he needs to set up the car.

"This is a dream come true," continued Atwood. "To be successful at the highest level, you've got to have everything -- you've got to have the right cars and the right people setting them up. I've got some guys around me who definitely can help me out. I'm really looking forward to it."

Atwood's learning process will begin in earnest this summer as the Dodge Dealers Intrepid R/T and other Dodge test cars are tested on racetracks across the country. On-track sessions are planned to get the cars ready for next season and give Atwood a chance to log some "seat time" on tracks he will see for the first time in a racecar next year.

Although Atwood wasn't born when Dodge withdrew its factory support from Winston Cup racing more than two decades ago, he has seen lots of videos of Richard Petty winning NASCAR races in Dodge equipment.

"Dodge had a lot of success in Winston Cup racing, and I'm sure they'll come back just as strong," Atwood said.

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