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Old 02-01-2017, 11:14 PM
9,423 posts, read 7,071,740 times
Reputation: 12183


Figured I might throw some topics like this out every now and again to spur some discussion, and because.. I'm realizing that I've been a fan so long at this point (About 1994) that alot of the things I remember.. Many newer fans never heard of, or even older fans have forgotten about.

Got a few topics that i'm chewing on.. Like this one.. Maybe talk about the Tabasco Fiasco some down the road.. Things like that.. Just every few weeks/months.. Might throw a topic out for discussion.. We'll see how you all like it with this one.

So.. This is the first one.. Casey Atwood.. One of the many "Next Jeff Gordons" that didn't pan out..

This one, I don't quite get.. I didn't think Casey got a fair shake. But.. let's do some background.

Casey Atwood first hit the NASCAR circuit in the truck series in 1996, running a single race. Sort of.. he completed 5 laps at Nashville before crashing out. This is when he was 15 years old, before the rules were changed to require drivers be 18.

He next appeared in the Busch series in 1998 where he made a decent splash.. 13 races run and he won two poles and was competitive even though the results weren't always there at the end.. And this while driving for underfunded teams.

In 1999 he moved over to the #27 Brewco ride, which was a solid ride. Not generally championship quality, but good. He won 2 races, 2 poles and finished 13th in points. At this point, the kid is 18 years old. In 2000 he remained with Brewco and didn't win, but improved to an 8th place finish in the points. It's important to remember that this was during the time that ppc was dominating the Busch series with Jeff Green and Jason Keller and there was alot of good, solid competition..

That performance got him tapped to be teammate to Bill Elliott at Evernham, driving the #19 Dodge Dealers Dodge.

He ran 3 Cup races in 2000 in an Evernham Ford as prep for a ROTY run in 2001. He scored his first top 10 at Homestead in the 2000 season.

He really struggled early on in 2001, as rookies are prone to do.. Even DNQing the first Atlanta race. A combination of a new car, new team, adjusting to Cup cars.. Alot of factors that were against him.. By the end of the year, he was really running pretty well (At least much better), scoring a career best 3rd at Homestead in 2001.

But.. The improvement at the end wasn't enough.. Evernham punted him from the #19 in favor of Jeremy Mayfield. Sliding Atwood over to the Jim Smith owned #7 with sponsorship from Sirius Satellite Radio., which switched to Dodge to become a satellite team of Evernham. This did not go well. The #7 hadn't been overly competitive for some time. This team was the descendant of Alan Kulwicki's team, which had been sold to Geoff(rey) Bodine, then to Mattei Motorsports before being bought by Smith. Smith had a pretty good truck operation, but the Cup team never really found its way.

Atwood was awful. Absolutely awful. No top 10's and really wasn't ever even close. 35th in points with a best finish of 11th at Pocono. He was released with 2 races left on the schedule. At this point, at the ripe old age of 22.. His career was effectively over.

He would wind up running 2 races in an R&D car in 2003 for Evernham with a best finish of 31st and attempt one more race in 2006 with Brewco which he would DNQ.

He would run the Busch series part time for the next several years, without great success. he took over the Fitz-Bradshaw #14 car for 2003 and 2004, not finishing out the '04 season. Ran a handful of races for Brewco and Evernham in '05, '06 and 07 before finishing up his career with a start-and-park operation in '08 and '09.

The postscripts here.. Atwood was retired at age 28. The Ultra Motorsports/Evernham marriage died when they released Atwood. Jeremy Mayfield actually did decent in the #19, making the chase in '04 and '05.. After which things went badly. he basically got into a fight with Evernham and was fired.. Started his own team.. Then was suspended for testing positive for meth in 2009. He never raced again.

Ultra motorsports continued for another year in 2003 with Jimmy Spencer as the driver.. Except for one race where he was suspended for punching Kurt Busch. Jimmy actually had something of a career resurgence in the car.. Running well at several races and I seem to recall nearly winning a race, but I may be thinking about Bristol when he was in the #41. He did payback Kurt Busch at Michigan I believe it was, which is where the famous shot of Kurt Busch signing "Kiss my ass" that is still aired today comes from. After 2003.. Sirius left and Ultra sold their Cup operation to Robby Gordon.

My take on this.. He was just too young at the time. He had talent. He really never should have been ported over to the Ultra motorsports team and he may have been a good, solid, serviceable driver had he remained in the #19 and been given time to develop or not rushed into the Cup ride as early as he was.

What separates him from the other "Next Jeff Gordons" such as Gilliland or Kenny Irwin in my book is.. At least to me, I could see that Gilliland and Irwin were not good driver decisions.. as a fan, watching them, Gilliland won a Busch series race.. Flat out won it, in an underfunded operation.. But.. Blind squirrel/acorn. Irwin, I never really saw great talent from in NASCAR. Atwood.. There was Cup level talent there, IMO.

Last edited by Labonte18; 02-01-2017 at 11:22 PM..
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Old 02-02-2017, 06:53 AM
Location: The Sand Hills of NC
8,774 posts, read 14,859,160 times
Reputation: 11886
Times have changed in NASCAR. Driving skills are no longer the top requirement for a top tier ride.

1. Money as in Paul Menard, Danika Patrick
2. Celebrity/marketability as in Chase Elliott, Dale Jr., Davey Allison, and others.
3. Driving skill as in Kyle Bush, Kyle Larsen

Not taking away from the driving skills of anybody but some got their fist shot because if what I listed. Some turned out to be great .others not so much.
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Old 02-02-2017, 02:40 PM
12,577 posts, read 13,302,282 times
Reputation: 8896
Kenny Irwin Jr was another "next JG." From what I read after he parted with RYR is Texaco wanted a young Sprint car driver after Ernie Irvan. JG's success caused several teams to think Sprint cars is where the next generation of drivers would come from but, as many of us fans have noted, where a driver comes from doesn't guarantee success in Cup. Unfortunately like several other drivers, we never got to see how the rest of his career would have been.
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Old 02-03-2017, 07:48 AM
Location: Island of Misfit Toys
5,066 posts, read 2,183,857 times
Reputation: 4514
I remember Atwood. I don't remember him standing out much or being very personable. You need both to make it nowadays.
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Old 02-06-2017, 05:28 PM
Location: Lake Norman, NC
7,185 posts, read 11,224,804 times
Reputation: 30752
Originally Posted by JonasW View Post
I remember Atwood. I don't remember him standing out much or being very personable. You need both to make it nowadays.
Reminds me of Reed Sorensen, another "next Jeff Gordon".
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