Atwood Sirius About 2002

The final pieces to the 2002 NASCAR Winston Cup Series puzzle are slowly being assembled.

Monday afternoon, Evernham Motorsports/Ultra Motorsports took care of its primary sponsorship concerns when it was announced that Sirius Satellite Radio would be the financial backer for its No. 7 Dodge with driver Casey Atwood, beginning in 2002.

The team has spent a short time without a sponsor since the end of the 2001 season. NationsRent has been that car’s sponsor for the past few years.

The announcement comes two months after it was revealed that Ultra Motorsports owner Jim Smith had entered into a partnership with Evernham Motorsports owner Ray Evernham to field the No. 7 Dodge. That announcement came at the season finale at Atlanta Motor Speedway in November, when Atwood was named as the driver of that car.

Atwood had driven the No. 19 Dodge for Evernham during his rookie campaign in 2001, finishing 26th in the Winston Cup Series points standings with three top-10 finishes.

This is the first venture for Sirius into the NASCAR circles. The deal is for two years with options, Evernham said.

“It’s a great honor and it’s exciting when you bring a new sponsor into the sport,” Evernham said. “We made the commitment prior to signing Sirius as our sponsor that we would go forward with this program (the No. 7 Dodge) and run with it.

“We got together with Sirius, we looked at their program and they looked at ours, and it’s going to be a perfect fit. Someday, Casey Atwood is going to be a Winston Cup champion and we hope that we can have a long-term partner in Sirius that will be with us down the road when that happens.”

Atwood had a rough first year in the Winston Cup Series, and it was announced he would be replaced in the No. 19 Evernham Motorsports Dodge by Jeremy Mayfield. The joint venture between Smith and Evernham, however, allowed Atwood to stay in Winston Cup, and he’s hoping to build on the momentum he gained at the end of last season with the No. 19 team.

“It’s a big relief for me for us to get a sponsor and it’s very exciting,” Atwood said. “It just helps everything right along. I feel like I fit right in with the sponsor, and I’m really excited about the relationship we’re building with Sirius.

“I’ve been over to the shop once during the off-season, in fact a couple of weeks ago. They (Ultra Motorsports) have got two building over there, one for the Winston Cup team and one for the Truck Series team. They’re getting ready, building the cars and putting the bodies on them. I’ve got a lot of confidence (going into to the new season). I wanted to be with Ray in Winston Cup racing, and this is just a way to keep it going.”

Smith finished 32nd in the 2001 Winston Cup owner points standings with four different drivers behind the wheel. Mike Wallace began the season in the No. 7 Ford, but the team finished the year with Kevin Lepage at the helm.

“We’ve made a few changes, but not many,” Evernham said. “The way we’ll handle things, I’ll do the competition side and Jim (Smith) will do the business side. I’ll worry about things, and Jim will get the ulcer.

“It takes time to get people to jell. That’s the biggest issue. Jim had good people in place and good systems in place already. We don’t want to go in and rewrite Jim’s books, we just want to enhance what he’s already got in place. He’s got a pretty competitive team in place already.”

Kevin Cram, who began the 2001 season at Evernham Motorsports, will be the crew chief for the No. 7 Dodge.

From its three satellites orbiting directly over the U.S., Sirius will broadcast 100 channels of digital quality radio to motorists throughout the continental United States for a monthly subscription fee of $12.95. Sirius will deliver 60 original channels of completely commercial-free music in virtually every genre, and 40 world-class sports, news and entertainment channels.

“Sponsoring a NASCAR team is a perfect fit for Sirius as we launch our service to consumers,” said Joseph P. Clayton, Sirius’ president and CEO. “Not only is NASCAR one of the most exciting and fastest growing sports in the United States, but its fans are loyal supporters of brands that sponsor their favorite drivers. With the veteran experience of Evernham Motorsports and the Dodge racing team, and a bright young driver like Casey, we have a winning combination in place.”

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