Bill Elliott to Race in Coca-Cola 600
CONCORD, N.C. (AP) _ Bill Elliott used one crutch to navigate his way through the deep puddles at Lowe’s Motor Speedway. Neither heavy rain nor a broken left foot could keep him away from the race track on Thursday.
``It feels pretty good,″ Elliott said, pulling off his sock to show his crew his swollen foot. ``It looks a lot better today than it has yet.″
Elliott broke his foot in an accident during The Winston last Saturday night, but has no plans to miss the Coca-Cola 600 on Sunday.
He had every intention of practicing Thursday and qualifying the No. 9 Dodge in the evening time trials, but got the day off when NASCAR canceled all track activity because of the rain.
Qualifying was rescheduled for Friday afternoon, so Elliott had a little more time to rest his broken bones before climbing into a car.
``He told me he was fine,″ car owner Ray Evernham said. ``Now we as a team just have to make sure he’s as comfortable as possible in the car.″
That means special adjustments to the brake pedal _ Elliott is a left-foot braker _ to make it softer to push down. And he has two carbon-fiber foot soles to choose from; each slips over his shoe and helps him bend his foot.
Another precaution could be having Truck Series driver Ted Musgrave on standby should Elliott need to miss a practice session or be unable to finish the race.
There was talk of using former Evernham driver Casey Atwood as a standby, but the 22-year-old Atwood is too small to fit into Elliott’s seat. So every driver change would require a time-consuming seat change.
Atwood has not completely ended his relationship with Evernham, but finally found work Thursday when Fitz-Bradshaw Racing hired him to drive the No. 82 Chevrolet in the Busch Series.
He’ll race in NASCAR for the first time this season in Saturday’s Busch race at Lowe’s in a nine-race deal with sponsorship from the Navy. The team also has sponsorship for three other races this season, giving Atwood at least 12 before the year is over.
Atwood spent two full seasons in Winston Cup, the first directly driving for Evernham. Then he was replaced in the No. 19 Dodge by Jeremy Mayfield and moved into a car that Evernham only partially supported as a way to give Atwood seat time.
That deal fell apart at the end of last year and Atwood has been free to look for work ever since.
``It hasn’t been very fun at all,″ Atwood said. ``I haven’t been out of a car this long since I was 10 years old. Daytona was the worst experience, because it was the first time I had been there since 1999 without a ride.
``It was really hard on me just walking around the pits. So I can’t really express how good it feels to be back.″
Atwood will be a teammate to Kerry Earnhardt in a car partially owned by NFL Hall of Famer Terry Bradshaw. The team had always hoped to expand to two cars, but needed sponsorship to do it.
When the Navy ended its association with Roush Racing and Truck Series driver Jon Wood last week, Bradshaw and Armando Fitz were one of 20 teams to bid on the account.
Stunned when the Navy picked his group to spend its money on, Bradshaw said he needed just one meeting with Atwood to pick him to drive the car.
``He can run up front, he’s fast, he’s aggressive, articulate, pretty, all the things that represent NASCAR,″ Bradshaw said. ``I left that meeting with him and said `I’ve seen all I want to see and heard all I want to hear.′ Let’s give him a contract and get him signed.″